ISL 2021 final: Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, Lobera's flying wingback at Mumbai City FC

ISL final 2021: The left wing-back, who turned 23 last week, feels his early exposure to the game has had a lasting impact.

Mumbai City FC wingback Vignesh Dakshinamurthy has had his first full breakthrough season in the ISL.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Football runs in Vignesh Dakshinamurthy's veins. As a toddler, he would tag along with his father to the football ground. His father was a Karanataka state-level player and a regular in the BDFA Super Division, while his uncle, Shanmugam Venkatesh, played for the national team and is currently the assistant coach of the Blue Tigers.

“My first coach was my father. He’d take me to the ground, help put on my shoes and teach me. He and his team-mates would organise free summer camps every year and that’s where I learnt to play. I began when I was around 4 or 5-years-old and I have remained on the football pitch since,” says Vignesh.

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The left wing-back, who turned 23 last week, feels his early exposure to the game has had a lasting impact. “I used to go to watch my father play every weekend. Seeing the players in the dressing room, the way they got ready and went about their warm-ups and how they would all pray together before a game… that really inspired me. I remember how the players will be preparing for the game in the dressing room and I’d be loudly knocking the ball against the wall as a kid. That was my childhood,” he says amidst laughs.

Football is a constant in the Dakshinamurty household. (SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

 

He earnestly adds that football was a lifeline for his family. “We are a very humble family and faced lots of struggles initially. That’s how my father brought me up. Football is god to me, it is a lifeline. We had food on our plates because of football.”

And Saturday will be one of the most memorable evenings for his family as Mumbai City FC’s Vignesh takes the pitch to play against ATK Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League (ISL 2020-21) final. The youngster is expected to start in place of senior pro Mandar Rao Dessai, who is suspended. 

Vignesh's footballing journey, which began at the Ambedkar playground in Gautam Nagar, Srirampura, saw him eventually play for Ozone FC in the I-League second division before making the jump to Mumbai City in the lucrative ISL in 2018. He featured in four games in his debut season but managed only one appearance of seven minutes last term. Despite the lack of game time, the youngster continued to strive for bigger things.

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“You have to remain focussed and work hard in such situations. Whether others had faith in me or not, I never lost faith in myself. I kept believing in myself and trained with the hope of getting game time. I never thought of leaving. I saw it in a manner that I needed to be strong to face this challenge,” he says.

His determination paid off abundantly this season as he has now featured in 21 games under Sergio Lobera, and even has a stunning goal to his name.

Vignesh (in white) with former Indian football team skipper Bhaichung Bhutia. (SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

 

“I have got game time this season and the team’s performance has also been very good. This season is going to be a special season for me. Last year, I was very keen to attack but I kept holding myself back, but this year coach Lobera has asked me to go attacking and he expects it from me. It’s a big plus point for me to have such a coach. I am easily able to understand his attacking style and know what he wants from me. Each minute I play is a goal for me,” he says.

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Looking back at that screamer he struck against Hyderabad FC earlier in the season, he says, “It was a complete team goal. [Ahmed] Jahouh played it to Bipin [Singh] and I made the run and was screaming for a one-touch pass from Bipin bhai. Then I heard a voice behind me, that of Rowllin’s [Borges], screaming maar de [hit it]! I didn’t see any other option and struck it and [it went into the] goal!

Vignesh scored his maiden ISL goal in the win over Hyderabad FC. - ISL/Sportzpics

 

“We do a lot of one-touch football in our training sessions. We have scored many goals like this in training and this was a reflection of that. How we train is how we play in the matches I’ve scored many goals like this, among others, like this in training. Training is very joyful and Tiki-taka is a lot of fun. This is the effect of that,” he says. 

Talking about what that goal meant to him and his family, he says, “My friends called and teased me saying I have become a big guy now and that I won’t call them or talk to them anymore (laughs). My mummy cried after seeing the goal (laughs). She knows how much I struggled in the last two years with very few chances. I had a lot of hopes ahead of each game and I always hoped to at least go with the team. My patience for the last two years has been rewarded this season.”