Dinner had just been over and the boys were supposed to leave the hall when it arrived. The big cake, all chocolate, looking sinfully rich in calories.
Minutes later, the calories were rubbed on the birthday boy’s face. Mohanraj Nallappan, in a futile attempt to wipe with the tissue paper was being mobbed the next second, his face gaining more calories.
Tuesday was Mohanraj’s Birthday, his 24th. And as Mohanraj cut the cake with the big knife, which possibly could have walked into the Guiness Books for its size, the birthday song was sung, hugs exchanged; the knife (read sword) delicately sizing the huge cake into small pieces to be distributed among all.
“I was taken aback and was embarrassing,” Mohanraj smiled. “But it’s a big honour for me,” Mohanraj confessed to AIFF Media. “The players who I look upto, sang for me and even the coach. I just can’t believe it. I didn’t even think the team would come up with such a gesture. We are one big family,” he added. “Earlier I have been a part of the senior India camp but the birthday celebrations never happened,” Mohanraj pronounced.
Just 24, Mohanraj’s journey began under Colm Joseph Toal, Head Coach, Youth Development in 2007. “I was 17 then and Colm-sir drafted me into the U-19 national squad for the AFC U-19 Qualifiers,” he recollects.
Thereafter, I was referred by Toal-sir into the Senior India squad. Though I didn’t get much playing time, the experience of staying in the Camp matured me a lot,” he goes on.
“The style of playing has changed in the senior national squad. Earlier it was different. But now Koevermans-sir stresses on positional play and keeping possession. That’s what modern football is all about.”
“This is a chance which fell on my lap from nowhere. And now it’s upto me to make the most of it,” he said about his call up into the squad for the SAFF Championship. It doesn’t matter whether I play or not. Everyone has a specific role in the team. If I am able to cement my place in the squad, my mom would so much happy. I take strength from my bible,” he quips.
“The Bangalore camp was so fruitful. We had some very effective practice sessions. Life is a learning curve for me. I am hungry to learn and implement what has been taught.”
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)