FIFA U-17 WC: Indian football’s night of hope

Jeakson Singh, who scored the solitary goal to ignite fire in the Indian think tank against Colombia, sulks of not having a result in the hosts’ favour but underlines the “international football” lesson the team learnt.

The Indians did exceptionally well, beyond expectations, surprising themselves, but not their fans, who came and cheered every move.   -  PTI

 

India did not win, but the fans celebrated the night. After all, their team had taken baby steps towards attaining stardom for Indian football, long languishing in the shadows of cricket, hockey and badminton.

Jeakson Singh. Anwar Ali. Dheeraj Singh. Remember them. They would be household names in times to come. Provided they get the backing of the fans and the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The Indian colts couldn’t overcome Colombia, but they swept the viewers off their feet by creating magical moments on the field.

Read: Jeakson scores India’s first goal in narrow loss to Colombia

Magical may appear a flattering description. But there was magic in the way Jeakson rose and headed the ball into goal. The ball settled sweetly in the comforts of the net even as the moment triggered frenzy among everyone present at the venue, with the exception of the Colombians, of course, and the supervising officials.

There was magic when Anwar pulled off a few sliding tackles. There was magic when Dheeraj flung himself into air to divert the ball’s goal-bound flight. “It was a nice experience and I felt on cloud nine when I scored the goal, however we tried our best but were unlucky. It is obviously a great feeling to score for my country in a FIFA World Cup but it would have been sweeter had we won the match. To me, it does not even matter as long as we score. We deserved a result, and we tried our very best to get it, but in the process we learnt a huge lesson on international football,” Jeakson reflected the mood of the Indian camp.

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Coach Luis Norton de Matos said, “I will sleep well with the sentiment that the players played a fantastic game. I am very proud as the Indian team showed they can play in this competition. Six months ago, it was a dream to think that we can perform against a top South American team. This team has a fantastic future.”

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The Colombian coach Orlando Restrepo was on the same page. “It’s hard for me to remember their names. The two centre-backs (Anwar Ali and Namit Deshpande), did an unbelievable job. They kept the Indian team organised and had a successful game. I repeat that it was a balanced game. They (the Indian players) did everything they could.”

The Indians did exceptionally well, beyond expectations, surprising themselves, but not their fans, who came and cheered every move that emanated deep from the home team’s half. First World Cup appearance? It certainly did not seem so because Colombia was visibly a much relieved lot when the final whistle was blown.

When the excitement of putting up a fight had died down, some cynics concluded, “long way to go.”

Yes, there is a long way to go. The boys know it well too. But they have begun the journey on a sound footing. That, then, was the magical takeaway from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Indian football’s night of hope.