Amarjit: Didn’t think of leading India in a World Cup in my wildest dream

Jamshedpur FC midfielder Amarjit Singh has made rapid progress ever since captaining India at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The 19-year-old made his Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) debut with Jamshedpur last season, scoring once during his eight appearances for the club and has also made his senior national team bow.

Amarjit, though, is taking nothing for granted and insisted that he never thought of achieving as much as he has even in his wildest dream. “Everything still feels like a dream. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would lead my nation in a World Cup, and now after three years, here I am, with five senior appearances to my name,” Amarjit told indianexpress.com.

However, coming from a humble background with limited means meant that his footballing journey was far from straightforward. “By the time I was six, I had started training under my uncle, Diben Thoujam, along with his son, Jeakson Singh (who currently plays for Kerala Blasters FC). In 2010, I moved to Chandigarh and I got myself admitted to the Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) so as to not be a burden on my family,” Amarjit said.

He continued, “Initially, I played as a winger, but I got shifted to midfield by the time I was selected for the India U-14 squad. Since then, I have been improving in my position… at U-16, U-17, U-19, U-20, U-23, and now in the senior team. Along the way, I made many sacrifices and got acquainted with different languages and cultures. I had decided back in 2010 that I have to always consider myself as a professional player if I want to succeed. The love that I have for football always kept me going even in alienating surroundings.”

His breakthrough in the national setup came just two years after the FIFA U-17 World Cup and his development was fast tracked after being sent to the Indian Arrows side in 2017. “Right from the AIFF Elite Academy, we were guided by our coaches on how to go about our club careers. I am really thankful to AIFF for sending us to Indian Arrows in 2017… the playing time we got in I-League by going up against clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal… it was very vital to our growth curve,” Amarjit opined.

His debut with the Blue Tigers eventually came against Curacao in the 2019 King’s Cup and Amarjit thanked national team head coach Igor Stimac for his belief in him as well as the likes of Sunil Chhetri for their support. “Although I was nervous then, Igor Stimac’s belief in me and the support of my seniors — (Sunil) Chhetri-bhai, Gurpreet-bhai (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu), and Udanta-bhai (Udanta Singh) — really motivated me. Like always, I gave my all on the pitch that day,” the teenager said.

Even though he made his Hero ISL debut last season and his national team bow last year, a double arm fracture in August meant that it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Amarjit. “Looking back, the injury didn’t ruin 2019 for me. In football, you are bound to suffer setbacks every once in a while… you get injured or your form dips, but the one thing you should keep in mind is to never stop the hard work. I put the past behind and in January, I made my ISL debut against Bengaluru FC thanks to the faith of the head coach Antonio Iriondo,” he said.

As far as looking ahead to the future goes, Amarjit insisted that he can’t wait for pre-season with Jamshedpur and a reunion with the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup gang. “I can’t wait to go back to Jamshedpur and join the squad for pre-season and get busy with the team-bonding activities. I miss the training complex, Flatlet, and the cricket sessions with my teammates. But before all that, I really want to have dinner with my World Cup gang in Imphal once everything returns to normal,” the 19-year-old said.

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