The 19-year-old versatile defender has had an inspiring journey in the lower rungs of Indian football.
Rising through the ranks at FC Pune City, Nikhil Prabhu is making a name for himself at newly-rebranded Indian Super League side Hyderabad FC. Beginning at a very young age, the 19-year-old impressed at every level he played and has quite an inspirational story too.
Constant support from his parents and passion for football saw Prabhu make his way through university football, MDFA Elite Division and in the Santosh Trophy as well. Looking at the progress he has made so far, Nikhil Prabhu is an exciting prospect in the ISL at the moment.
Name: Nikhil Prabhu
Date of Birth: 2nd October 2000
Nikhil Prabhu developed an interest in football at a very young age. Impressing in several tournaments in Gujarat, he and his family moved to Mumbai in search of greener pastures.
There, he represented several local clubs including PIFA Colaba, Kenkre FC and the then MDFA Elite Division side Mumbai FC. With adequate grooming from coaches at the latter club, Prabhu represented their U-16 team as captain in the I-League Elite Division. Thereafter, he also represented Maharashtra in the Santosh Trophy at just 17.
In the year 2017, Prabhu was adjudged the Best Defender for Maharashtra State at the U-18 District Championship. Not to forget, Nikhil Prabhu was part of the 40-odd probables list for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 too. Although, unfortunately he didn’t make the final squad. The player later admitted in an interview that it was a ‘big lesson’ in his career.
Further, in 2019, Nikhil again impressed in the MDFA Elite Division, winning the Best Defender Award. The same year he was brought in by the now defunct FC Pune City to play for the U-18 side. His passion and determination for the game earned him a good reputation in the eyes of the then U-18 coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo. Moreover, his ability to play at any position in defence made him a regular choice for coaches.
After the club shifted base to Hyderabad, Nikhil Prabhu continued his brilliance on pitch while also donning the captain’s armband. His latest contribution for the team was with the Reserves that played in the I-League 2nd Division last season.
As pointed out by Wadoo, now the assistant coach at the club, Nikhil Prabhu is one of the few defenders who can play well in multiple positions and who have the goalscoring touch as well. Despite being a defender, the youngster is a specialist when it comes to set-pieces.
Moreover, his attitude, both on and off the pitch has helped him progress at each level in his career so far. As a player ever ready to step onto the pitch and deliver consistent performances, Nikhil Prabhu is a delight for coaches.
“He has a very sensible and brave character, qualities which I think are very important for a player to reach the top level,” quoted Mehrajuddin Wadoo while praising the player.
Aspects to Improve
As a teenager looking forward to bow into the senior team in the near future, Nikhil Prabhu has a huge scope for improvement. The stiff competition between the top three teams in ISL showed a glimpse of how the intensity of the league has increased over the years.
That said, it would be a huge step up for Nikhil Prabhu from the I-League 2nd Division to the top tier. For that, he will definitely need to work harder than he already is. Moreover, with Albert Roca in as head coach, Prabhu has a great opportunity to be groomed under a highly-experienced coach in Indian football.
In the eyes of former India international Wadoo, Nikhil Prabhu has the potential to impress at the top level. In recent years, the country has developed a huge pool of exciting young defenders. That said, it will be a challenge for a player like him to make a name for himself ahead of his fellow competitors.
Yet, his qualities like leadership, versatility in defence and an eye for goal might give him an upper hand in the race.