From the track to the touchline - Ashique Kuruniyan's evolving challenges

The 22-year-old winger talks about his accidental beginnings in football, experimenting with field positions and time with the national team.

Ashique Kuruniyan's roots as a sprinter are all too evident in the pace he brings to the sides he plays for.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

With his pace and ability to dribble through the opposition, it is no surprise to learn that Bengaluru FC winger Ashique Kuruniyan started out as a 100m sprinter. Football happened by chance to the Malappuram native when his school wanted someone to play on the left wing. From dreaming of playing for his district team in Kerala to now playing for the national team, Kuruniyan has come a long way.

The 22-year-old is part of the 26-member squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman and sounded elated, "I am enjoying this moment. It's the best feeling to play in my country's jersey. I am very happy and confident. Since Afghanistan is a strong team, we have to win to get the points and I will play with confidence to win."

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Working and training under the national coach Igor Stimac, Kuruniyan felt the players have displayed significant improvement as a team, physically and mentally. "Our game has really improved under Stimac and in some more time it will become even better. Physically, Luka Radman, the strength and conditioning coach, is working really well on us, we are enjoying it and our fitness levels have definitely improved," said Kuruniyan. Listing his pace and toughness as his strengths, Kuruniyan also credited Radman's role is helping the players keep injuries at bay.

An interesting part of the ongoing Indian Super League is seeing club coaches deploy Indian prospects in creative positions that aren't necessarily their position of choice. Kuruniyan has welcomed the experiments with open arms. "I play as a winger. I would like to play on the other positions also. There is no problem in which ever side the coach wants us to play, we are ready for it. If we play in a new position we will learn something new from it. I am happy to play in any position and learn from the experiences," said the former FC Pune City (now Hyderabad FC) player.

Having signed a four-year deal with Bengaluru FC, Kuruniyan knows he has time to perfect his takeaways from the learning curve. “The coaches keep on adding new things. Slowly I will learn more and it will take time to improve my finishing.”

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