The Kerala Blasters star opens up following his sensational debut for the senior team weeks ago.
Football leagues in India have seen a rise in the growth of many young aspiring players, though some have become an integral part of their teams, but still underrated, some have turned out to become heroes.
Many are the contributions of the I-League, and the Indian Super League (ISL), as we’ve seen burgeoning youngsters cementing their seat in the national team. Talking about Deependra Negi, a graduate of the AIFF Elite academy, he’s not the one who was trained by these leagues, but is a youngster who developed after training with Spanish sides.
Now, the 19-year-old, former India U-17 captain is in the ranks of Kerala Blasters. The RD Global Sports client recently made his debut and instantly powered their game. The sensation talks exclusively to Khel Now about his journey so far, his take on football in India, his experience mingling in a camp containing the likes Dimitar Berbatov, Wes Brown and others. Excerpts:
Q1: How did you get into the AIFF Elite Academy? Who inspired you to choose football?
A- There were open trials in my hometown for the AIFF academy, I got selected in those. Afterwards me and others who got selected had to go to Delhi for the final trials in which I also got selected and this is how I got to join the academy.
My uncle Navindra was into football, so watching him made me fall in love with the game.
Q2: Football in India is going through a vibrant period. Do you think that more academies should be set-up, in order for the country to have a bright future?
A- Now, in India, all the professional clubs have their youth teams and academies. Now everyone is taking care of the grassroots levels too.
The youngster is an AIFF Elite Academy graduate
Q3: What’s the difference between the young colts who participated in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and those of your team (the team when you were the U-17 captain)?
A- Both were different, though one thing was common, both were top quality.
Q4: Do you think that the U-17 squad (Indian Arrows) has the potential to be an inspiration for the generations to come?
A: Yes, all the players in Indian Arrows are very young. But, they are competing in a professional league and they are giving everyone a tough fight. So it’s amazing for young players to look upto them.
Q5: You had undergone trials at multiple Spanish clubs and were part of Club de Futbol Reus Deportiu, how was the journey?
A- The journey was amazing. I got the chance to train under amazing coaches, met incredible players and learnt from them. Overall it was so much of learning and has helped me to become a better person as well as player. CF Reus was magical as well since it was my first Spanish club. it was amazing every time. The time I spent there was magical. I learnt so many things, made amazing friends. It did improve me a lot.
Deependra Singh Negi’s acrobatic first touch goal
Q6: How do you compare the style of play in Spain and in India. Do you think India should adopt European style of training methods to improve fitness and the quality of play?
A- Spanish football is about keeping the ball, being clinical technically and so much more. India has been following it for a long time now. So, we are getting the hang of it and looking to learn even more.
Q7: You were signed by Kerala Blasters as part of their youth development plans. Do you think that more clubs should direct their focus to help aspiring talents advance?
A- Yes, it was amazing! When they signed me it was unbelievable since it’s a big club and they gave me the chance to play. Now, every club is giving chances to their youth. Many of my friends are already playing in the ISL.
Q8: First touch, first goal. Hero of the match! How was the debut for Kerala Blasters in the ISL?
A- The debut was a dream come true for me. I wanted to help the team in the best way I could. The debut was possible because of the trust of my teammates and managing staff. It wouldn’t have been be possible without them.
Q9: You signed when Rene Meulensteen was at the helm, now you’re under David James. How different are they?
A– Both are different, their coaching is different, but their goal is the same, to make our team stronger and it’s my privilege that I’m gaining knowledge from such amazing personalities.
Q10: How has the presence of legends like Dimitar Berbatov, Wes Brown, Iain Hume and others helped the team?
A- Sharing the pitch with these legends is amazing. They have been helping the team since day one. We get to learn so many things from them and they help us in the best way they can.
Q11: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem was training with Kerala Blasters for a while. What do you have to say about him?
A- I know Dheeraj since a long time and he’s person people should look up to. He’s truly an inspiration. He works hard and is dedicated to making himself better and better.
Q12: How has been the experience with Kerala’s amazing fans?
A- Well, they have been the best fans I have ever known. They have been amazingly supportive us in our bad and good times. They are our 12th man.
Q13: What’s your dream?
A- My dream is to play in spanish league and in the national team of India.
Q14: Which one do you prefer, I-League or ISL?
Q15: From hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup, to ISL, and I-League running simultaneously, football in India is going through a revolutionary change. Do you think, are these developements able to influence the younger generations?
A- Yes definitely, India is concentrating on football now and it’s getting better and better, big names are coming to India which is making the new generation to follow the game and make living out of it.
Q16: Your favourite team, favourite player?
A- Barcelona, Countinho and Neymar