When the names of the Indian probables for the 2018 World Cup Preliminary Joint Qualification matches, to be played against Oman and Guam, was announced on Wednesday afternoon, it signalled the beginning of a new chapter in the burgeoning careers of both Sehnaj Singh (21) and Sumit Passi (20), as both were called to the senior national football side for the first time.
Apart from Sehnaj and Passi, the other four players from Chandigarh to be named in the senior side are Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Robin Singh and Gurwinder Singh.
Both these former trainees of Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) have earned the confidence of national coach Stephen Constantine following some superb displays in the ongoing I-League matches.
Sehnaj plays in the midfield for Indian giants, Mohun Bagan, whereas Sumit Passi, a forward, is currently plying his trade for Sporting Clube de Goa.
“Both Sehnaj and Passi have been doing well in the Indian U-19 and U-23 teams and it was a matter of time before they broke into the senior Indian squad. It is just the beginning for them and they should make full use of the opportunity,” said Harjinder Singh, coach of Chandigarh Football Academy, where both Sehnaj and Passi spent their formative years.
Passi, who belongs to Yamunanagar, recently played for the Indian U-23 team in the AFC U-23 Championship held in Bangladesh whereas Sehnaj was a vital member of the Indian U-19 team.
Both Sehnaj and Passi, after helping the team clinch the first time in 2010, left CFA to join Pailan Arrows almost four years ago, and a series of good performances saw them being snapped up by Mohun Bagan and Sporting Goa, respectively.
Striker Robin Singh, who plays for Bengaluru FC, and defender Gurwinder Singh of Kerala Blasters FC, are their seniors and were trainees of the first batch of Chandigarh Football Academy.
While Robin has earned 16 caps for the senior side, Gurwinder, despite being called to the camp on numerous occasions, is yet to earn his debut senior national cap.
On the other hand, Sporting Clube de Goa’s defender Sandesh Jhingan, 21, who recently became the first domestic footballer to make it to the crore-club when he was retained by Indian Super League side, Kerala Blasters FC, has rose through the ranks and established himself in the senior squad as an irreplaceable member of the national team.
He made his debut for the senior national side against Nepal in the World Cup pre-qualifiers earlier this year.
Custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who plays for Norwegian club, Stabaek FC, and became the first football player from India to play in a competitive match for a top-tier side in Europe, made his senior debut against Turkmenistan in AFC Asian Cup in 2011.
Both Jhingan and Gurpreet are former trainees of St Stephen’s Football Academy.
The players will report for a camp in Bangalore in the first week of June, with practice kicking-off from June 4. India will play their first match at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on June 11, while the next match against Guam will be played in Guam on June 16.