With the Indian Football season coming to its business end, a number of youngsters have moved forward together through the ranks to the Hero Indian Super League, showing that they have the attitude and the aptitude to perform in high-level games, despite their relatively young age.
While these boys now shine for different clubs, they all share the same background – Indian Arrows.
Akash Mishra has had an impressive season with Hyderabad FC, playing a part in all 20 matches for the Nizams & amassing as many as four successful tackles per game. The 19-year-old considers himself lucky to have been a part of the Arrows journey in the earlier part of his senior professional career, something that has moved him forward from the Hero I-League, to the Hero ISL, and most recently to the Indian Football Team probables list as well.
“I came in from the AIFF Academy, and I consider myself lucky to have got the opportunity at Indian Arrows,” said Akash. “My first season was not that great, as I had a few injuries. But that changed in the second season, and I was able to play all the matches.”
The now Hyderabad FC defender feels that the crucial game time that he got, especially in his second season at the Indian Arrows, prepared him for further challenges.
“The most important thing in the Arrows is the game time. That is very important for any footballer. More game time means more experience. When you play in a league, you get to play all the teams who have foreign players as well, and you gain experience from that. You improve daily, game-by-game. You see the situations every day and you learn how to overcome these obstacles,” he stated.
Another former Arrows lad, who has gone on to make a name for himself at Bengaluru FC is midfielder Suresh Wangjam. The FIFA U-17 World Cupper relishes the vision that the Indian Arrows have to promote youngsters, much like himself, and give them a platform.
“Bengaluru is my first professional club, but I have previously played for Arrows, which is a developmental team. Having played there for two seasons, I must say that I just love the vision. They give the opportunity to the young players,” said Suresh.
Something that had further helped Suresh before his Arrows experience got underway was three years of playing quality opposition all across the world, with the India U-17 team.
“When you talk about the U-17 World Cup, I would say that we were lucky, because we got a chance to play where no Indian had played before. But to get to the World Cup ourselves, we spent three years training, and playing different exposure matches from 2015 onwards. We travelled to different countries, played against tough opponents like Brazil, Norway and more. Yes, these teams were better than us, but playing those matches gave us confidence, and made us mentally stronger. These matches made me the player I am today,” said Suresh.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam, who had captained the Blue Colts in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, recently made it to the semi-finals of the Hero ISL with his new club FC Goa. The former Arrows lad who also holds the distinct record of being the youngest man to captain a side in the Hero I-League, feels that he and his comrades got the ladder, in the form of Indian Arrows, that paved their way upwards, after the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“We played two seasons in the Hero I-League. After the World Cup, that was a big thing for us. It was like getting a ladder to make the next step. We were up against some big teams with quality foreigners as well, in the Hero I-League. Our coaches worked hard on us, and motivated us. After spending those two seasons at Arrows, I now realise how it helped,” said Amarjit, who was also among the first from his batch to make it to the Senior National Team.
Vikram Partap Singh, who is also in his debut season in the Hero ISL, is a part of a formidable Mumbai City FC squad, that has secured the Hero ISL League Winners’ shield, and will be fighting for the Hero ISL crown against ATK Mohun Bagan on Saturday, March 13.
The 19-year-old had played a crucial role for the India U-16 side that made it to the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia, three years back. The forward then went on to follow that up with fine performances at the Indian Arrows, where he even captained the side, last season. Vikram took his inspiration from Amarjit, who was his senior, back in their younger days.
“Amarjit and I were in the same academy, and I used to look at how he had made the junior national team, and I wanted to do the same as well,” said Vikram. “I wanted to play the World Cup with him. That did not happen, but I did gain a lot of experience from the preparatory matches that we played for the AFC U-16 Championship.”
“After that I was brought to the Arrows, and that experience helped me develop as well. I want to thank AIFF for giving us all those exposure matches that slowly brought us up to pace, and we finally began to play the kind of football that we wanted to play,” he said.