‘I want to continue growing and play for the senior national team’-the Imphal man spoke on the sidelines of the AFC Asian U-16 Championships in Goa..

From a distance, he looks stocky. When up close, you are bound to admire the youthful exuberance in of his eyes and when you speak to him almost every sentence has a mention of football. India Under-16 skipper Suresh Singh Wangjam spoke about football, life, the challenge of captaincy and much more…

Q: What prompted you to take up Football?

A-Right from my childhood I had a passion for the sport. It was my first love. I used to play with almost everyone in Imphal where I grew up. But life changed in 2011.

Q: How did it change?

A-Playing for Manipur, I was spotted by All India Football Federation scouts in the 2011 U-14 Championships which were held in picturesque Kalyani. I proceeded to the trials in Goa which were conducted by Robert Baan (former Technical Director, AIFF) and Scott O’Donell (present Technical Director, AIFF). I have been an AIFF Academy cadet since then – in fact, everyone in the team is an AIFF Academy cadets. I need to wholeheartedly thank AIFF for their support in our lives.

Q: What does the opportunity to play in the U-17 FIFA World Cup mean to you?

A-What more can a Footballer expect? It’s a World Cup and we are eagerly waiting for it. Even Sunil Chhetri has commented that he is ‘jealous of us’ as we would be playing in the World Cup. That’s a huge motivation for us. We are aware and understand that we are lucky but at the same time aware of what we need to do. I just want to continue playing, become a professional footballer and play for the senior national team.

Q: Tell us something about your family?

A-I am the only son in the family. I have two elder sisters and a younger sister. My father runs a small business and my mother is a homemaker.

Did your family ever have apprehensions about you playing football?

A-Playing football in the neighbourhood was acceptable to my parents but the idea of becoming a Footballer wasn’t. My parents wanted me to study and become a bureaucrat. They only became supportive once I got selected into the AIFF Academy and represented my country. Today, they proudly tell everyone that their son is enrolled in the AIFF Academy and is going to be a part of the U-17 World Cup team.

Q: How much of an influence has Coach Nicolai Adam been?

A-He is tough as a Coach but there is always a softer side to him. Besides grooming us as our Coach he is also teaching us to develop into a good human being. He is our hero. We all look up to him. He has imparted a sense of discipline amongst us not only on the field but off it as well. He is both our friend and Coach.

Q: How is it being with all the boys?

A- The sense of camaraderie amongst us is exceptional. We are like brothers living together. We prefer to stick together and everything that we have is shared by all. There is nothing called ‘me and my’ amongst us. It’s always ‘we.’
I also need to mention the sacrifice made by our support staff. They make us forget that we are away from our families. They are very caring. They are the ones welook up to when in need.