The AFC Asian Cup will be a different challenge- Udanta Singh
Khel Now sat down with the "The Flash" to talk about life at Bengaluru FC, Indian football and much more.
Udanta Singh has been the spark which Indian football direly missed for a long time. Nicknamed "The Flash," he has been excellent, seemingly improving with each passing year with his blistering pace and dribbling ability making him a threat for any team.
At the age of 21, Udanta has already established himself as a mainstay in the national team and a crucial cog for the Blue Tigers who rely on him to produce the goods from the right wing. Udanta's impressive pace and ability to pick out players makes him one of the brightest young talents in the country right now.
He's still to mature as a player but has already proved to be an impeccable talent with his dazzling work on the field. Khel Now had the opportunity to catch up with him and have a candid chat about his career, Indian football and much more.
Udanta opened up about how he was introduced to the sport and when he started to look at it as a serious career option, "I started playing football when I was quite young, in the streets and in school with my friends. During those days, I got the chance to join the Tata Football Academy (TFA) and that's where it all changed for me."
Udanta has been one of the star performers for Bengaluru FC this season
"At TFA, I was training with some talented young players and regularly playing football in many parts of the country and the world. It was when I started realizing my potential that I decided to choose football as a serious career option," he explained.
"The Flash" has spent almost his whole professional career at Bengaluru FC and has been a Bengaluru boy through and through. "Bengaluru has been a big part of my life, since I moved here in 2015. I was welcomed well by the fans, the club, the management and it has been a special journey so far. I'm happy in this city and at this club because we're very much like a family. Right from the ball boy to the top management, everyone's pushing each other to do better and raise the benchmark because we know we have to work hard for success and as a unit," he conveyed.
"The players are very down-to-earth, we learn from each other and there's not a single player in the squad that I can't sit next to in the bus or in the dressing room and start a conversation with. It's a special group of people and leaving it is something that any player will find a hard decision to make," asserted Udanta.
It's been a rollercoaster of a season so far for Bengaluru who have reached the finals of the Indian Super League and Super Cup, but Udanta feels that it's been a successful one. He reflected that the squad and the club is content with the way the season has gone.
"We can't go back and change things, knowing that the ISL trophy was within touching distance, but as a group, we've picked ourselves up and we're going to keep fighting. The Super Cup is a good chance for us to continue playing well and to bring back a trophy and we also have the AFC Cup to fight for," a hopeful and confident Udanta said.
It was definitely a heart-breaking case of "so close, yet so far" for Bengaluru in the ISL final. Udanta explained that while defeat was hard to take, the squad has since moved on from the disappointment.
"The final was a different story, a lot of things didn't go our way, we conceded goals from set-pieces and it's something that will live long in the memory. But, that's how it is at any successful football club, you have your setbacks and you find a way to get past them," he further added.
The 21-year-old has established a chemistry with Miku and Sunil Chhetri upfront
The winger's partnership with captain Sunil Chhetri and Miku has been deadly this season. "Miku and Sunil bhai are players who have played at the top level for many years and to play alongside them is a great learning experience," the youngster said reflecting on his experience playing with the formidable duo.
"The way they carry themselves, on the pitch and off it, is something that I learn from every day. When I was younger, I used to look up to Sunil bhai and I never thought that I'd be sharing the dressing room with him and to be able to do that now is a great feeling," he continued.
"Sunil bhai is a very influential figure, at the club and in the national team. He's always pushing you to work hard and do better because he hates losing and he cannot come off the pitch without giving his 100% every time. To play alongside him makes a big difference to any footballer because you learn never to take your foot off the pedal," Udanta reflected speaking about the India skipper's influence on him.
Bengaluru FC have gone extremely close to winning the AFC Cup in the past couple of years and Udanta seems confident of their chances this year too. "Representing India in the AFC Cup is a great feeling and being so close to winning shows that we have the ability to do well in Asia," he claimed.
The Indian team has been on the rise in the past few years and speaking about what he feels has been the key to their success, Udanta said, "We've done well with the national team because we've got a great bunch of players, who are all doing well for their clubs and the quality in the side is beginning to show when we play our games. We had an unbeaten streak going during the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers and many new players have come into the set up to show that Indian football is growing."
He added: "I don't know if there's any secret to it, but what I do know is that every player who comes to the national camp comes in knowing that he has to give his 100% every time."
Elaborating further on what his realistic expectations are from the AFC Asian Cup next year, Udanta explained, "As a team, the main aim going into any competition is to give the best account of ourselves. We did well to top the group in qualifying, but that doesn't mean we can be complacent. The tournament is going to be a different kind of atmosphere."
Udanta might already be a sparkling package at 21, but he still has certain things he needs to improve upon. His biggest strength is his pace, which allows him to get past his marker and get into the box. However, according to him, he needs to improve his finishing and the final ball into the box to make him more lethal.
"I just want to keep playing football because it gives me joy. It's a fantastic feeling to be a regular in the club and country setup at this age, but the aspirations for the future are to continue playing football at the highest level and hopefully, to win some trophies along the way."
Finally, Udanta spoke about his inspirations growing up and he had some interesting names as he stated, "I was a big fan of Sunil bhai right from my childhood. I grew up watching him. Another idol of mine was the Brazilian Ronaldo. He was so quick with the ball at his feet and he's someone I tried to replicate on the pitch with my playing style."
Published: Fri Apr 20, 2018 06:49 PM IST