As exciting as it can get, Delhi Dynamos #16 Vinit Rai spoke to Khelnow about his footballing journey, the upcoming season and his idol on his birthday i.e. 10th November.
Delhi Dynamos‘ young prodigy Vinit Rai is keen on making his days in the national capital count. Having already played for Kerala Blasters last year, the 20-year-old Assam prodigy is not new to the system and knows the demands of the league. After having a tremendous pre-season, at least on the personal level, Rai is confident of leaving a mark. Traditionally he is a box-to-box midfielder but has been often used as a defensive midfield guard, and despite that, he has delivered.
Being a graduate of the Tata Football Academy, Vinit Rai was scouted at the age of 13 and trained there for four years. “As you know, the Tata Academy is considered as the best football academy on offer in India. It was an overwhelming experience to be there, owing to its history. It was good to have the Sheffield United delegates around us and it helped me a lot to grow as a footballer. The tournaments we played, we were accompanied by them and were duly given feedbacks on how to improve ourselves.”
After his footballing graduation, he signed for Goan club Dempo and almost instantly impressed. The then Dempo coach Arthur Papas said “Vinit is a very cultured midfielder with a great range of passing. He has a willingness to always want the ball and link the play between the defensive and forward lines.” Rai would enter the 2014–15 season with Dempo as the youngest first-team player. After spending a majority of that season playing for the club’s youth team, Rai became an essential part of the system in the following season 2015-16, helping them regain promotion to the I-League.
“When Stephen Constantine came back to India in 2015, I was picked for the U-23 AFC Asian Championship. I was just 17, playing in that category with players 5 years elder to me. Unfortunately, the team could not move ahead because other teams had players who were playing together for at least a year or more and we were underprepared because of our lack of bonding as a team.”
The U-23 team visited Qatar earlier this year and Vinit played an important role in the same
Resulting in better performances, the coach took him up to the Indian national camp and finally gave him the debut from the bench against Bhutan in an unofficial friendly.
When asked about the biggest question of Indian Football about which league is better, he said, “I would go with Indian Super League and with all due respect to the I-League, ISL is much harder because of the social tension it brings along. With an extensive amount of fans and the money involved, it really becomes hard as a player to keep your calm and perform to the fullest.”
Going further on his favourite managers, Lee Johnson and Miguel Angel Portugal made the cut. The former worked with him during his stay with the Indian National team. “Lee Johnson helped me a lot in my career and he is more of an elder brother who guides me through and even Constantine helps me a lot.” The latter is his current manager at Delhi and conveys that he is fortunate to have the Spaniard with him as he is learning a lot.
Vinit Rai is excited about the upcoming season and is one who’s knocking at the door
“The most appropriate use of my ability, at least on a personal note, was made by Constantine. When I played the last U-23 game in Qatar, he gave me the fluidity to play my natural game. Playing under him is difficult because he demands a lot of from his players. You have to be precise and composed in your play and obviously perform good.”
Talking about his role model, he says that he idolizes the players he wishes to play like. “I never had a fixed person to look up to as I grew up. As of now, I look up to Casemiro as we share the same position. My idols change with the playing position I shift to. I have had Busquets, Kroos, Modric etc and I always look up for their playing styles and try doing their way.”
“It should not matter to any of the outfield player of what the scoreline is, all that matters is the 3 points on the table to reach the top. Until and unless a goalkeeper is concerned, the score should never matter,” said Vinit when asked of his favoured scoreline.
Vinit Rai is one of the most promising midfield enforcers in the Indian footballing setup at the moment
“Till now, I could not play much owing to my age, except the U-23 matches. This time, I am really looking forward to make the most of my opportunities, give the team what it really deserves and enjoy the football the head coach is making us play. We, as a team, are really confident.”
Talking about what he needs to improve, he stated that he works on his shooting. He has always been keen towards the long shots but the limitations of his position sometimes restrict him to shoot.
“I am most afraid to play against Pratik Chowdhary. He is really fast and very hard to control while Aaron Hughes is the best player I have come across, either on or off the field. He was very humble. Whenever we did commit a mistake, he would never scold or yell but always corrected us and motivated us to do better. I learned a lot from him.”
“Miguel Portugal too is a big-hearted guy who wants us to enjoy our life but not at the cost of our performances. Just like Aaron Hughes, he is always on our back to improve our gameplay, win and is very strict when it comes to our work rate.”
He signed off stating that he knows its a difficult season for every club and everyone will be vying to win the title.