Doungel drawing inspiration from Chhetri in his bid to realize the India dream

Most fans would have gone for a Sunil Chhetri or a Sahal Abdul Samad to be India's hero in the Blue Tigers' FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 joint Qualifiers clash against Afghanistan last Thursday. The duo has been the most enterprising attackers for head coach Igor Stimac so far and possess a certain match-changing ability that can hurt any opposition on any given day.

However, neither of them could take their chances on the night and with the Blue Tigers seemingly headed for a second defeat in the qualifying campaign as the clock ticked past the 90-minute mark, an unlikely saviour emerged in the form of FC Goa winger, Seiminlen Doungel. Probably the shortest man on the field, the 25-year-old rose the highest to meet a Brandon Fernandes corner in stoppage time to grab what may turn out to be a potentially important point for his team.

The goal was the Doungel’s first in India's colours and a culmination of years of sacrifice and continuous hard work. “It'll always stay right at the top,” claimed the winger, recalling one of the best nights of his career so far. “No other goal comes closer to this. I am a strong believer in God and I prayed to him before going into the pitch. The moment I connected and the ball went in, I actually went blank."

He further said, "I couldn't actually realise what happened and after a fraction of a second, I came back to reality. I dedicate the goal to my entire family.”

Doungel reserved special appreciation for the unending support of his better half, and revealed, “My wife was an avid cricket follower just like any other Indian. She didn't have any idea about football but since we met, she started following football and taking interest in Indian Football. She has been my biggest motivator. She has always backed me whenever I have been low. When I spoke to her after the match, she broke down. Everyone in our family watched the match. Everyone was glued to the television set and it makes me feel so happy that I, to some extent, could deliver.”

Despite his apparent glee, Doungel admitted that it wasn't the time to celebrate but the need of the hour was to keep up the hard work to make himself a regular part of the national team. In his quest to achieve his goal, the winger has also found himself the ideal inspiration in captain Chhetri. “I know, I have a long way to go and it is just the starting. If we look up to Chhetri-bhai, probably we can realise how much effort and hard work you have to put in day in and day out to maintain the consistency. The amount of sacrifices and hard yards that he has put in is what we should follow. It is not a fairy tale. It has to be the hardcore reality to achieve the dream,” he stated.

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