During the 2022 Asia Cup in Jakarta, a fresh-faced Selvam Karthi scored on his senior debut against Pakistan. In the following match against Japan, Karthi was seen sporting a blue headband to go with his India blue kit and so did Birender Lakra. Lakra handed over his headband to Karthi and while Karthi didn’t score in that game, the forward has worn it ever since.
For Karthi, the headband holds ‘sentimental’ value, every time he steps onto the pitch. He wears the blue one for the home kit and a white one to go with the away kit. Karthi says it’s among the favourite part of his gear and will do everything possible to keep it safe.
“There was no reason behind it (Lakra giving him the headband). He told me that he wore it during the Olympics (where India won bronze),” says Karthi, after scoring another goal for the national team in the 5-0 win over Malaysia.
The goal was special due to all the clamour and interest around the 21-year-old from Tamil Nadu during the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy here. Every time he gets on the ball, the decibel level in the 8000-capacity stands goes up a notch higher in the hope of seeing one of their own get on the scoresheet. Even Karthi’s parents who have been making trips to the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium every match day, have been asking him to score a goal.
“Every time they go for a match, they say ‘goal adi pa, goal adi pa (please score a goal)’. So now to score in front of them, they are really happy and I am very happy,” says a visibly pleased Karthi.
Surely such expectations would likely put a youngster off but not Karthi. In fact, he is even sleeping soundly before match days. “There’s no nervousness,” he reveals. “Only if I sleep and rest can I play well, so that’s not an issue.”
In new head coach Craig Fulton’s possession-heavy system focused on control, India’s skilled forwards have not sounded the board regularly. Karthi, in fact, scored his first goal in the Fulton era by collecting a fired-in pass from Harmanpreet Singh before taking a touch and hammering it low and into the corner. But Karthi feels this win over Malaysia felt like the coach’s strategy was in ‘full effect’.
“We are trying to implement the new coach’s strategy. I feel it’s working for us. We are still learning. It’s only at the starting stage and we are building up well,” he says.
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