The 24-year-old has become a household name for Indian football fans.
Many young kids dream of becoming professional footballers when they grow up. But very few of them actually go on to make it at the top level, let alone thrive in it. The fact of the matter is that there are just too many variables standing in the way.
However, one little starry-eyed boy from coastal Tamil Nadu has weaved his way past these obstacles and has gone on to become a household name on the lips of every Indian football fan.
Jamshedpur FC attacking midfielder Michael Soosairaj has mesmerised one and all with his skilful display on the pitch. While Soosairaj may have earned his fame by now, the 24-year-old has had to face many obstacles in his earlier days.
The Boy Who Dribbled On Water
Soosairaj comes from Eraviputhenthurai, a small fishing village in coastal Tamil Nadu, where, unlike the rest of the country, the people eat, sleep and drink football, much like the fish that they catch in the Bay of Bengal.
Soosairaj and his brother Regin Micheal, who plies his trade at Chennai City, suffered an early setback in their lives when their parents passed away.
“Those were difficult days, but I am thankful to my cousins – Edwin Thomas and Anto Xavier. They took care of us back then. They put me through college, and I never had to pay a single penny for it,” said Soosairaj.
“They put me through college, and ensured that I get a proper education, and get a chance to enter the world of football through college sports,” he continued. “They also encouraged me to move to Jamshedpur when the offer came.
“They are very down-to-earth people. They helped me, but they never want anything in return. I would not be standing where I am today if it were not for them.”
The Club That Groomed A Future Star
While Soosairaj was in college, his talent was noticed by Chennai City FC, a local club with big ambitions back in the day. The attacking midfielder was signed-up when he was merely in his second year in college.
The club that was playing in the Chennai Senior Division League back then, harboured hopes of playing in the Hero I-League in the near future. That dream finally came to fruition in the 2017-18 season, when they went on to finish eighth in the top division.
Soosairaj’s performance in the league caught the eyes of many other top clubs in the land, though, and he went on to sign for Jamshedpur FC, where he has scored four goals from 14 appearances this season.
He may have moved on to Jamshedpur FC but deep inside his heart, Soosairaj remains an ardent Chennai City fan. “I may not be playing for Chennai City any more, but that club will always be there in my heart. They have played a very important part in my development as a professional footballer,” he said.
“Even the Chennai City fans give me a lot of love whenever I go back to Coimbatore. So if they are playing a match, I always try to watch them play, be it on the ground, or on TV,” explained Soosairaj, who was present in the stands at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday, watching his former side’s Hero Super Cup Round of 16 match against FC Pune City, which the club from Tamil Nadu won 4-2.
“I am really happy with how they have been playing. I watched their Round of 16 match against FC Pune City from the stands, and I’m very happy with how they played,” he said. “Even though Chennai were down to 10 men, they dug deep and beat a tough team like Pune.
“After the match, Regin Anna and my former teammates came up to meet me. They all still accept me as one of their own, even though I play at a different club now,” said Soosairaj.
The Super Cup Beckons
Having celebrated Chennai’s win at the Kalinga Stadium, Soosairaj will now turn his attention to Jamshedpur FC’s campaign at the Hero Super Cup. The Red Miners have had a steady first couple of seasons in the Hero Indian Super League, missing out on top-four finishes by a whisker on both occasions.
“The club has done quite well last two years – two back-to-back 5th finishes. The only thing that hindered us was that we drew 10 matches this time round,” explained Soosairaj. “A few wins there, and we would have been through to the Hero ISL semis.”
“With the Hero ISL season over, we are hungry to win at least one silverware this season. We’re all fired up for the Super Cup,” he signed off.
The Men of Steel have received a walkover in their pre-quarterfinal clash, with I-League side Churchill Brothers boycotting the tournament.