The young striker talked at length about his childhood, career, national team call-up and more.

Farukh Choudhary is coming off an impressive season in the Indian Super League (ISL) where he was a consistent performer for Jamshedpur in what was a rather disappointing campaign for the Men of Steel. The 23-year-old is closing in on a move to Mumbai City FC, returning to play in the city he was born and raised in. Choudhary is currently in his hometown and in interaction with ISL’s Instagram page, he gave an update on his present situation.

He said, ‘I’m trying to keep myself fit. Other than that, I’m doing some housework, cleaning the house. Sometimes, I’m trying to make new dishes, different kind of pancakes, veg kebabs, chicken kebabs and helping out my family. I’m trying to play with the ball every now and then. The important thing is we stay at home and keep everyone safe.”

Farukh Choudhary has played for a couple of years in the ISL, but had quite an interesting journey emerging as a professional player, to playing for Pune FC’s academy as well as I-League second division side Lonestar Kashmir. Speaking on his pre-ISL years, he said, “I wanted to participate in marathons in my school days. I’ve been training for marathons since I was seven years old. My father has been behind me throughout my life. He made sure me and my sister ran 20-25 rounds every day. After that, there was only one sport left in school that was football, so I asked my father about it. He gave me the encouragement to do it.”

“I gave my name and started playing for the inter-house tournament. Luckily the house I was representing won the tournament and I scored a few goals, despite playing as a centre-back. I think my coach saw that I had an ability to score goals. He told me that he’d take me in the U-12 school team and he wanted me to play as a striker. Since then, I started playing as a striker. I played in school matches, the district tournament, state tournaments (when I was in college).”

He continued, “When I was representing Maharashtra in Pune, where Pune FC used to train, Naushad Moosa and Ranjan Choudhary had come to scout players. They selected me and told me that we’ve scouted you and we want you to come to Pune after the tournament. That was my first professional academy. But, I joined Pune FC after that, I did well in the trials. I was with the Pune FC academy for a year, where I got to learn so much. I learnt how to train well, rest well and also about studies. That helped me in terms of professionalism.”

“After that, we didn’t have any team as Pune FC were shutdown. But, Moosa sir called us and said that Lonestar Kashmir wanted a few players and I have recommended your name for that team. We decided to go to Kashmir, played there for a year and qualified for the final rounds of the I-League 2nd Division. It was a different experience altogether playing there. The people there are very warm and they supported us. However, the second division isn’t as professional as the ISL and we had to take care of ourselves. After that, I got a breakthrough to join Kerala Blasters, where my ISL journey began.”

Farukh got his first big break in the ISL at Kerala and he’s thankful to Steve Coppell as well as Aaron Hughes for helping him settle in. He said, “I want to thank the manager Steve Coppell because he showed trust in me and he had a huge part to play in my career. I learnt a lot from him, but not only him as I learnt a lot from the players as well. I was very scared at our first interaction among our squad. I was so shy that I couldn’t even talk at first. But, they helped me a lot and made me comfortable.”

“Being there with them on the pitch and off the pitch, you learn so much. The meaning of professionalism I have learnt from Aaron Hughes. The way he prepared himself for games, the recovery he used to do after training sessions. Recovery was so important for players like them who played every game, which came every 3-4 days.

“There I came to know how important recovery is. I learnt how they communicate, how they motivate players and to experience all that in the first season was something. I’m so thankful to all the senior players from my time there. I remember that in my first ISL season we made it to the final. That season was a great thing to remember.”

He further explained the role Coppell had in his evolution in the league, stating, “In the beginning, we young players didn’t get to play many matches. I lacked match experience and I used to make a lot of mistakes. The coach used to tell me that this is the time to make mistakes, but to learn from those mistakes. Along with Steve Coppell, the assistant coach was always there to correct our mistakes. Sometimes, I was shouted at for making same mistakes.”

“I’ve worked hard to not make silly mistakes, to get more composure. In that, obviously Steve Coppell has a major role. I am really thankfully of all the chances I got at Jamshedpur in my second season. I was very happy and I was growing. Back then, I worked on how to get ready for matches, how to be ready to deal with pressure and better be prepared mentally. I must thank the coach for giving me all the chances at Jamshedpur.”

“I would like to tell this thing about preparation before games. It all started when I got the national call-up last year. Getting selected and playing for the national team is a huge thing. You are so confident that you’ve played for the national team. You have to use it and work it in the ISL. There’s nothing about what we do before the game. It’s about getting ready mentally, work on whatever the coach tells you. The only things we have to do in the match is score goals and give everything you have.”

Farukh Choudhary also has fond memories of playing with Spanish striker Sergio Castel, whom he shared a deadly partnership with before his injury. Speaking on his chemistry with the Atletico Madrid B loanee, he said, “He’s a great guy. Off the pitch, he’s so funny and you’ll laugh so much when you’re with him. He makes sure to work hard for everyone. Being together and training together helped us get that combination.

“Whenever I had the ball I knew where to play the ball and vice-versa when he got the ball. Until he got injured, we were having a great time. Getting injured was a difficult phase for him. Playing alongside him has helped me as well,” Farukh Choudhary also added.

Choudhary also spoke about his feelings on getting his first national team call-up a few years ago and how the senior players helped him during that period. He explained, “The moment I got the call for the national-team from the assistant coach who told me I was called up for the national camp. As soon as I hung up from the call, I was so happy that I was crying. It was a dream come true for me.

“Later on when I joined the SAFF Cup team and the other friendly games as well, where I got to be with Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet bhai, it was an amazing experience. They advised us how to take care of ourselves, be more professional and take care of our rest. All these advices coming from the likes of Sunil Chhetri was a huge thing for me. It boosts me a lot. There’s no other motivation needed when you do something for the country.”

The 23-year-old also explained how Sunil Chhetri and Anas Edathodika helped him when he first got a call-up, recalling, “Chhetri has been guiding me a lot. Anas Edathodika is also like a big brother me. He’s told me that no matter where you, make sure you remain humble. Whenever we are in the camp, Sunil Bhai made me do finishing drills after training sessions.

“He told me a thing or two on how to improve and not mistakes. He’s always guiding us as a leader. The relationship is good with all the senior players. Whenever I know that I need something, I know they will be there. It’s really good to have such great professional footballers to be at your side.”

However, he was assertive in stating that it’s unfair to dub his “the next Chhetri” and that he aspires to reach the heights of the national team skipper. Farukh Choudhary said, “It’s very kind of people comparing me to be the next Chhetri. However, I don’t think that anyone can be the next Chhetri. It’s a bit unfair. He’s done so much for the country and it’s not easy to do that. I think being a youngster and being a footballer, I always hope and aim to reach that level. I want to give my best to the country and maybe reach the record where Sunil Bhai is at right now.”

Farukh Choudhary also spoke about the yoga celebration he pulled out for Jamshedpur this season, explaining, “This season in Jamshedpur FC the coach made sure that we started doing yoga. This pose(that was my celebration) is called the Rikshashan. Once in the gym Memo and I was talking about and we both came to a conclusion that we’re going to do this celebration. It was just because we had started doing yoga. It helped us a lot.”

The youngster also had a few interesting choices for his top-three favourite goals of the ISL season, which he converted into more than three when explaining his choices. He said: “I would say the best goal of last season is the one Chavez scored for NorthEast United. The second would be Nishu Kumar’s goal from the set-piece and Thapa’s curler against Goa. Also a special mention to my friend Vinit Rai. Raynier’s goal against us was great as well.”

The 23-year-old also advised youngsters to never give up on believing in themselves and be patient on getting the breakthrough. He said, “My message would be that no matter whatever happens, make sure that you believe in yourself. There will be a time when nobody will believe in you and it might take, one month, one year and five years, but if there’s enough determination you will make it.”

Farukh Choudhary also touched upon his feelings for the Red Miners, fans of Jamshedpur FC and praised them for their unconditional support. He stated, “They are amazing and are very consistent. I think we lost two games and weren’t doing good enough last season, but the support was always there till the very end. That’s really amazing.”

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