Almost a week ago, when the Indian team flew to earthquake-ravaged Nepal to participate in the inaugural edition of the SAFF under-19 football championship, it marked a watershed moment in Gursimrat Singh Gill’s life. Apart from keeping the opposition forwards at bay at his preferred centre-back position, the former trainee of Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) had the additional responsibility of playing deputy to Daniel Lalhlimpuia, who was leading the Indian team in the championship.
Despite the heartbreak of falling at the final hurdle after the Indian team lost to Nepal 4-5 in the penalty shootout, there is no denying that Gursimrat has emerged a better player and a leader after the tournament. With some standout performance at the heart of Indian defence, Gursimrat was among handful of players who returned home with their heads held high.
“It was an enriching experience. The tournament itself was a high point for me and despite being the vicecaptain, I felt no pressure,” said the 17-year-old.
Very often, in pressurecooker situations, his teammates turn to Gursimrat, knowing he will hold his nerve and bail the team out of trouble. This trait, which makes him stand out from the crowd, was noticed by the scouts of Italian giant, Inter Milan, during the Nike All Asia camp held at Qatar last year. Gursimrat, who was among the five Indians sent to the camp where players from countries like China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia trained under coaches from Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan, was keenly watched and his performances analysed by the Serie A team’s scouts.
In the end, Gursimrat overcame the cut-throat competition and made it to the final XI in the camp, further enhancing his growing reputation.
“I came to know from my coach that Inter Milan coaches are following my development and they will keep tab on me whenever I take part in an international match. It came as a huge honour for me because they are a huge club. It made me work harder on my game,” added Gursimrat.
Back in India, Gursimrat soon rose through the ranks and became a permanent fixture in the playing eleven. His contribution to the team was vital as he pumped in crucial goals to help the AIFF Elite Academy clinch the 2015 under-19 I-League title.
IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
Three years ago, when Gursimrat left CFA to join the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) regional academy at Navi Mumbai, never in his wildest dreams did he ever think of achieving success in such a short span of time. From a starryeyed player to one of the most promising defenders in the country, Gursimrat climbed the stairs of success.
It helped that his former CFA-mates, Daniel, Lalramzauva Khiangte, Mohammad Sajid Dhot and Nishu Kumar, were there to make him feel at home at the AIFF Academy. From under-16 to the under-19, his journey has been swift and full of wonderful memories besides loads of trophies and accolades.
BORN TO PLAY
Born in Sarabha village in Ludhiana district, Gursimrat was never left untouched by the game.
While both his father and uncle were hockey lovers, Gursimrat never wanted to dabble in the game. His first love was football and he would never get tire of kicking the ball around with his friends at the near-by ground. His younger brother, goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, who is a member of the Indian under-15 team, would often accompany him as he rubbed off his love for the game on his brother.
Gursimrat’s life changed for the better when Ravinder, a former trainee of CFA, informed him about the trials being held to select trainees for the new batch. Beating the 100-odd competitors, Gursimrat was finally selected for the academy. That was 2007.
His superior physique was ideal for a defender. Initially, he started as a left-back but then he moved to the heart of defence.
Three years later, in 2010, Gursimrat won his first major trophy with the CFA team—the under-14 Subroto Cup. “Gursimrat has always been hard-working. He has shown that he has the talent and the passion to represent India at the highest level. I just want him to continue to work on his game and emerge a better player,” shared Harjinder Singh, coach at CFA, under whom Gursimrat learned the basics of the game.