How rejection from India U-17 World Cup squad made Nawaz stronger

Not every setback is a defeat and it's especially true in football. The sport offers ample opportunities, in even the bleakest of moments, to stand right back up even after the toughest of falls. Just ask Mohammad Nawaz. Two years ago, the FC Goa goalkeeper was dealt a big blow, as he was left out of India’s Under-17 squad for the U-17 FIFA World Cup back in 2017.

For a budding footballer in India, being deprived of an opportunity to represent the country at a stage so big, was undoubtedly a massive disappointment. The rejection was even more painful considering the name he had already made for himself with consistent displays at youth level.

At a recent media gathering, Nawaz remembered the tough times and recounted, "For me, it was tough. I was with the team for almost five years. So, I had a good experience training with them, playing with them. Fifteen days before the World Cup, the team announcements were done. I expected my name to be there on the board but it was not there. I was surprised. After that, I was feeling bad for almost 10-15 days."

However, instead of dwelling on his dejection, Nawaz worked hard to up his game and become better at his craft. This work-rate and single-minded belief in himself eventually paved the way to his redemption. "I kept working hard. I got my calls from respected seniors like Renedy Singh and Gouramangi Singh and they inspired me to keep working hard. This is just the beginning, they said," Nawaz recalled.

Then FC Goa came calling…

The perseverance soon reaped rewards as Nawaz got a call from U-19 India team for the AFC U19 Championships. Another big moment for the youngster transpired when Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) club FC Goa came calling. "I got an offer from FC Goa to join their development team. I didn’t even think twice because I knew I would get chance to play. Coach (Sergio Lobera) used to come and see our matches in second division Hero I-League. He liked me and I got an offer from the first team," said Nawaz.

Soon enough, Nawaz made his senior debut for the Gaurs in Hero ISL 2018-19 and his athleticism and game-reading capabilities were there for all to see. Before dropping out with an injury, Nawaz made 13 appearances and kept five clean sheets for the Gaurs, helping them substantially in their run to the final.

Speaking about how the entire experience has shaped him both on a personal and professional level, the young custodian remarked, "The experience has made me very strong. I learnt that if you fail, you always have another chance."

Braced for a new season

With Hero ISL 2019-20 approaching, all eyes will be on the Goa custodian yet again. Expanding on his expectations from the coming Hero ISL 2019-20 season, Nawaz said, "This season will be a very big chance for me because last season was my first experience. So, I have learnt a lot, the good things, the bad things, everything. I have been working very hard for the coming season. I want to do more. I have a goal. If the coach gives me a chance to play, I will give my best. It’s not only about the trophy. It’s about improving as a team and improving as myself. So, we’re looking forward to it."

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