It’s just a beginning, we need to do bigger things in future, says FC Pune City goalkeeper Anuj

IFA Shield 2017: Anuj Kumar stars as FC Pune defeats Mohun Bagan in Final

pune Updated: Jun 16, 2017 16:17 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
FC pune,U-19,Mohun Bagan
FC Pune captain Mohammed Yasir (L) with goalkeeper Anuj Kumar at FC Pune City’s store in Pune.(RAHUL RAUT/HT PHOTO)

Winning 121st U-19 IFA Shield tournament in its debut season is definitely a big achievement for all of us, but this is just a beginning, we need to do bigger things in future, says FC Pune City U-19 team goalkeeper Anuj Kumar.

The players landed in city after their historic win against home team and multiple time champions Mohun Bagan on Wednesday. Talking about the overall experience, the 18-year-old said, “It was a great experience for all of us. Every member in the team gave their best and we are happy to sign off from the U-19 age group with this prestigious title.”

Anuj Kumar played a match winning role during the semifinal match against AIFF. The match went into tie-breaker after both teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time. During the tie-breaker when the score was 5-5, Anuj Kumar saved a ball brilliantly to give his side a chance to win the match in sudden death and Gani Ahmmed Nigam scored the winner for FCPC.

Even in the final, he played with full confidence and kept Mohun Bagan strikers a bay.“We were naturally under pressure, when we were facing the giant team on their home ground. However, our coach told us to enjoy the game. He told us that the pressure will be more on the opponents as they can’t lose in front of their home crowd. This talk eased our pressure and we played our natural game,” he said.

Although it wasn’t that easy way out for the team, as they were struggling to find form after their semifinal loss in the under-19 I-league tournament. Head coach Roger Lamesa put the team together and they did well right from the first match in IFA shield.

“It took time to recover from the I-league loss. We were having issues to hold back the lead. So our coach introduced to pressing football and it got good results and we kept playing like that throughout the tournament,” added Anuj Kumar, who basically hails from a small village in Uttar Pradesh. He shifted to Delhi at the age of nine and started playing football for CRPF Public School.

Soon the youngster excelled in the sport and represented school in various national tournaments. He was even part of the team which played in the Welsh Cup international school football tournament in London in 2009.Then he enrolled to Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools Academy in New Delhi and improved his game.

“I have been supported by various people. I want to make them proud and happy. That’s my aim,” he says.

Talking about the upcoming FIFA World Cup U17, he said, “This is a biggest opportunity for our players. If they do well in this tournament, it will help the Indian football in big way. Our fans support Indian cricket team because they give good results. We must give something to cheer if we want a huge fan following in our country.”

Meanwhile, captain Mohammed Yasir, a Manipur-born player who started playing at the national level in 2010, picked up the momentum quickly and was selected for FC Pune team after his impressive performance in Subroto Cup in 2014. “We have been playing together right from the U17 team and we have better co-ordination. So playing in the I-league second division will be a big boost for the team. Of course, we would love to be a part of Indian Super League, but it will take at least two years,” he said.

First Published: Jun 15, 2017 21:43 IST