The 22-year-old spoke at length about the start of his journey, time at Bengaluru FC and more.
Bengaluru FC defender Nishu Kumar joined Anant Tyagi in the latest episode of ‘LetsFootballLive’ on the Indian Super League’s Instagram handle. The 22-year-old has been with the Blues since 2015 and has risen through the ranks at the club.
Interacting live from his home in Muzaffarnagar, the youngster spoke about his decision to not pick up the popular sport of cricket and choose football instead. “Most of the people here are interested in cricket. I got lucky as there was a ground near to my house and I used to play football there. I felt that maybe I could make a career out of this and started going there daily. Then there were trials at Chandigarh Football Academy. I thought it wouldn’t work out, but then things got set.”
The youngster was then brought in to the Bengaluru FC squad along with two other young recruits. Speaking about his first memories at the club, Nishu Kumar said, “That year was very crucial for me. I didn’t get many chances to play during Ashley’s (Westwood) time. But, Malsawmzuala and Daniel (Lalhlimpuia) were getting their chances, so I used to have many questions in my head.”
“Then one day, I went into Ashley’s office and asked him why he isn’t giving me a chance and he said, ‘you’ll get your chance, you are here for the future. You are in our future plans, you are doing good, just do it and you’ll get your chance soon.’ Then, I remember he gave me a chance in an AFC Cup game,” he went on to add.
“I never thought I’ll be playing in a senior league like ISL or I-League. I am just going step-by-step, but I never thought I would get such chances. Vinit Rai was already at Dempo SC and I used to ask him how things are run at a club and if I could play in clubs. He always used to motivate me.”
Nishu Kumar made his jump to the Blues’ senior side under Albert Roca and was given a good number of opportunities. The youngster shared his memories of that time and spoke at length on his seniors at the club. “I got nine games and I was happy that I was getting to play nine games in just my first year. I knew it would be a problem in the future if I didn’t get more chances. Albert sir came to me and said I was doing good. He liked me and in training he would always help me with the rights and wrongs.”
Speaking about the skipper, Nishu Kumar made some rather interesting revelations. “(Sunil) Chhetri bhai always used to shout at me and ask me to work harder,” he began.
“He’s a legend, he’s like my big brother. But, he doesn’t shout at others as much as he shouts at me. In the beginning, I was demotivated playing with him on the same side. Eugene (Lyngdoh) bhai would ask Sunil to not shout at me and demotivate me. Now, I’m getting good things from him, but still he shouts at me a lot. It’s very dangerous to play with him.”
On the players he learns the most from in the dressing room, Nishu shared a short story during his days with the Blues’ former defender John Johnson. “We were training, playing a small side game. I was in John Johnson’s team and we lost that game. He shouted at me a lot and I got angry and left to the dressing room. He realized it and later called Gursimrat (Singh Gill) and me and invited us for lunch. Even in training he doesn’t want to lose.”
In addition to that, the youngster also spoke on another senior teammate of his – Harmanjot Khabra. “Khabra is a great person, he’s a fighter and he never gives up. We used to fight in every training session. We fight off the field too, in FIFA, everywhere we fight.”
Having played at the club for nearly five years, Nishu has risen through the youth ranks and has even earned himself a spot in the senior national side. Speaking on the way he is treated in the dressing room, he said, “I’m treated just the way I was on the first day. There are many senior players in the squad and I always walk in like a junior. Especially, if Chhetri is in the room, I’m silent and don’t speak a word. But, if he isn’t there, I speak and fight with Khabra, Rahul (Bheke) and (Rino) Anto.”
On that wonder goal he scored against Hyderabad FC, Nishu reminisced of how the imperfections made for a perfect strike. “One day before the game we trained for the corner. Coach (Carles Cuadrat) chose me to shoot, but Chhetri and Khabra said ‘I can’t score from there,’ but the coach believed in me. Even in training, I couldn’t score the goal. In the game, everything was perfect and amazing.”
The Bengaluru FC defender is one of the very few players to have scored for the national team on debut. He went on to share the story of what made his ‘perfect debut.’
“Our flight got delayed and we were very tired. We played directly without sleep and proper training. I played as a right winger. Thanks to Germanpreet’s (Singh) assist and (Anirudh) Thapa’s dummy, I got free and scored. It was the perfect debut, but unfortunately we lost the game. The seniors came and wished me about the goal.”
Nishu Kumar has evolved into a promising player and credits his Bengaluru FC coach for the improvements in his game. “He is a great coach and has taught me many things. I only believed in attack and then when he came, he told me to be balanced with my attack and defence and helped a lot with my defending. If I make a mistake, he rectifies that and that one mistake is what we train for.”
Amidst several reports of Nishu Kumar’s impending move to Kerala Blasters the youngster was flooded with questions from fans about his next destination. “I’m still a BFC player. It’s not just about me, it’s also the club. I’m not thinking about the future in this situation, after this ends, I will see. I’m still a BFC player,” he concluded.