The former India international opened up on his journey to becoming a professional footballer in Part 1 of his exclusive conversation with Khel Now.
The Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi was packed to the rafters to experience the Indian national team taking on Fajr Ibrahim’s Syria in the 2009 Nehru Cup final. It was an intense duel between both teams, as neither of the players gave an inch of space. Both sides squandered chances and India were literally kept in the game by the heroics of goalkeeper Subrata Paul. However, in came a forgotten star from Manipur, Renedy Singh, as Bob Houghton introduced fresh legs.
Despite both sides’ best efforts, the match rolled on to extra-time. There was a moment when Bhaichung Bhutia ran past defenders at will and was illegally brought down by Syrian defender Abdelrasek, just outside the box.
Watch: Renedy Singh exclusively in conversation with Khel Now.
It was in Renedy’s ‘territory,’ as the Indian football fans used to say it. The crowd held their breathe once and for all, as the man from Manipur took charge and sent the ball swerving away from the goalkeeper into the net.
The crowd went berserk, as India had the lead and at that moment Renedy Singh etched his name in Indian football folklore. That day onward, whenever there is an upcoming winger in Indian football, Renedy became the yardstick of assessment. Such was his enigma.
But, little do the fans know that the free-kick specialist from Manipur went through much hardship to achieve all the glory. He always knew that he wanted to be a footballer as his dad was one. But, there were problems in his family with his decisions.
“Football was big in our days as well, but my father was also a footballer and he couldn’t do much. He played for the state, but could not earn much. So, he was against me playing football. He used to beat me up when I came back home from the ground. That time I was around 7-8 years old,” Renedy revealed in a recent interview wth Khel Now.
Renedy was always determined that his art or choice of expression will convince his family. So, at the age of 10, his friends gave him the idea of joining the Sports Authority of India, as they offered best coaching and also free education in Army school.
“I was 10 years old when one of my friends told me if I get selected in Tata Football Academy or Sports Authority of India, then we could study for free. Especially, for SAI, where we could play and study in the best school of India,” he added.
“So, my father’s motive was to teach me to play well and if I get selected then he wanted to see me as an army officer. But, my dream was to become a footballer since the the age of 10 when I was in 5th standard.”
Renedy’s zeal and fire to fight against all odds saw him come to Kolkata for the U-12 trials, where the talented midfielder got selected for both the academies. Such was his class even then!
“I went to Kolkata for the trials of U-12 and got selected for both TFA and SAI. I had 5-6 days to decided where I should go to. My father was adamant and wanted me to join SAI and study in an Army school and be an officer. But, I cried over it for some days.”
“Then on my grandfather’s suggestion, my father dropped me at the Tata Football Academy. I was there for six and a half years,” recalls the former India international.
The Tata Football Academy is known as India’s very own La Masia, especially for the way it builds a character of the young boys and girls, teaching ethics way beyond sports. TFA changed Renedy’s course, as he laid every step with assurance under the guidance and tutelage of their guardian angel Ranjan Chowdhury.
“TFA was the best experience of my life and it was due to Ranjan sir and I have to thank him for teaching me for six and a half years,” said Renedy.
From wearing the training jersey at Jamshedpur to donning the Blue of the Indian national team, things took a huge turn in Renedy’s life. It was Sukhwinder Singh who saw the raw talent in him and gave him his debut for the Blue Tigers at the age of 19.
The boy from Manipur soon became a heartthrob for Indian football fans. Reliving his best days in Blue, Renedy said, “I have played for clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, JCT and so on. but playing for the national team when we defeated the UAE with Sukhi sir was a great moment. When we won against Syria with Bob Houghton sir it was the best moment.”
Renedy also relived the match against Bahrain in the World Cup Qualifiers and the moments he got to play against top teams like South Korea and Australia.
“The game against Bahrain was very special. The shot struck the bar and came out and Sunil (Chhetri) headed it back in. Those were different memories of playing against teams like Bahrain, Australia, South Korea and beating UAE in the World Cup Qualifiers,” the midfielder described the matches.
Renedy Singh was India’s top scorer in the World Cup Qualifiers with three goals and also played a crucial role in India’s 2008 AFC Challenge Cup victory.
Renedy saw the glitters as a footballer, playing for the national team and for clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and JCT. He also saw the opposite when he was plagued by injuries and struggled to get going. Incessant injuries cut short his time for both club and country considering his technical abilities as a midfielder.
Stints at United Sikkim, Shillong Lajong and later Indian Super League outfit Kerala Blasters marked the end of his 13-year long and illustrious football career.
Finally, he hung his boots up in 2011 and from then onward began India’s search for the next Renedy Singh. The midfielder from Manipur could drill inch-perfect crosses from either flank and had the same vigour with both feet. His ability to create something out of nothing made him a special player for the Blue Tigers in the last decade.
Currently Renedy acts as an icon for current generation footballers. He is also the technical director of Classic Football Academy.
Sunil Chhetri rightly says ‘Renedy Singh was one of India’s underrated stars from the last decade.’ He was always a special player for club and country. but he never hogged the limelight. One can safely say India’s search for the next Renedy Singh is still on!