If even a month ago one would have told India U-19 internationals and AIFF Academy cadets Anirudh Thapa, Prosenjit Chakraborty and Jerry Lalrinzuala that they would train at a club which has produced the likes of Arsenal legend Robert Pirès, Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribéry, Manchester United forward Louis Saha, Roma’s current midfielder Miralem Pjanić, Emmanuel Adebayor amongst others, they would have laughed on your face.
On April 20, 2016 the complexion on the face of the trio, upon acknowledging the gravity of the fact was more or less energetic and somewhat nervous.
The trio graduating through the ranks of All India Football Federation’s Youth Development Programme whilst being part of the age-group National Teams, are being sent by the AIFF for training at French club side FC Metz, starting this April.
They would be training with the U-19 and U-21 sides and playing a series of friendly matches. The club would be monitoring them closely and may extend the training stint for if any of the players impress them.
Thapa, Chakraborty and Jerry were part of the Indian squad which had won the SAFF U-16 Championship and finished runners-up in the SAFF U-19 Championship, both held in Nepal. They also played a key role in helping AIFF U-19 emerge victorious in the U-19 I-League and finished runners-up to TFA in the IFA Shield. They have also represented India in the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers in Kuwait and the ACT U-16.
Talking exclusively to AIFF Media, the trio, all excited and gaga with brimming smiles, looked confident ahead of the French journey.
“It is a huge experience for us and we will certainly evolve into better players by training with one of the top sides in French football,” said Thapa. “The experience will just be immense,” he nodded.
“We thank the AIFF and our coaches for helping us along the way and all of this is possible only because of their efforts. They helped us evolve in better players and are still backing us to get better.”
You mention to the trio about the likes of Robert Pirès coming from the FC Metz Academy and Thapa instantly quips: “It is a big motivation for us to be training on the same field as Robert Pirès. At the same time it is a huge honour for all of us to be associated with a club which had produced the likes of Pirès, Louis Saha, Ribéry, Pjanić, Adabeyor amongst others.”
“It’s hard to believe that we will be training at Metz. It will be an emotional journey for me as my some my footballing icons are associated with FC Metz”, explained Prosenjit Chakraborty.
“Our coaches have played an integral role in our upbringing. I would like to thank Gautam-Sir (Gautam Ghosh), (Syed) Pasha-Sir and all the support staff for helping me develop,” Prosenjit maintained.
“Even Scott-Sir (AIFF’s Technical Director Scott O’Donell) helped us learn the nitty gritties of the game and that has taken us far in our footballing careers so far,” Jerry, who had scored the winner for India in the SAFF U-16 Championship Finals, quipped.
“My family has already started praying for me for my successful stint in France. They have told me to keep focused on the task at hand and not lose concentration,” he informed.
With FC Metz playing in the second division of French league football (Ligue 2) the stakes for the trio are high. But they are not shying away from it.
“We know that it will be a different ball game all together in France. But we are prepared for it,” Thapa assured.
“The coaches that we have worked with so far are some of the best in the business and we have confidence in our abilities that we will perform,” he added. “We have to,” he reiterated.
When you mention about the alien weather, the food the culture, the trio, in chorus answered back: “That’s football. We are ready to fight. Thank you AIFF for putting us there. We will give our best.”
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)