India head coach Igor Stimac has called up Jamshedpur FC midfielder Imran Khan as one of the two debutants for his side in their upcoming Round 2 matches of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification against Afghanistan, both home and away.

Following what has been the most fruitful season for him in the Indian Super League (ISL), he has been rightly rewarded with the call-up to the senior team.

Also Read: FIFA World Cup qualifiers, India vs Afghanistan: Ticket and Telecast details

Representing the national team is a dream for every footballer when taking up the sport as a kid. But to go all the way, they need to clear all the obstacles in their paths. To come this way, they have to cross numerous hurdles, and this was the case for Khan as well.

“My brother called me and told me I was selected for the national team. I was really surprised. I asked him, "Are you serious?" I thought it was a dream. I was so ecstatic. I had been dreaming of this moment for a long time, for so many years. As a kid, I always wanted to wear the Indian jersey. I was really happy. I couldn't explain in words how I felt at that moment,” Khan told in an interaction with

Born and brought up in the village of Kairang Mayai Leikai in the Imphal East district of Manipur, football has been the go-to sport for the people living there.

"Football is a culture there. Kids are always playing on every corner," he stated.

Despite the sport being easily accessible to Khan, choosing football as a hobby was never easy for him as he had to support his mother for their livelihood from a very young age. However, his love for the sport and, of course, the support from his mother eventually led him to pursue football.

“My mother used to sell vegetables on the street. We didn't even have a cart. She sold them sitting on the floor. I was around 13 years old at that time and always used to go with her to help her out. That's how we earned our living. Beside that place, there was a small ground where some kids used to play. My mother asked me if I wanted to join them, and that's how my friendship with the ball began,” the winger said.

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The meaning of football has always been straightforward for Khan, and his humble nature has brought him to where he currently stands.

Even this season with Jamshedpur FC, he has been one of the most reliable players, contributing in every aspect. Khan has been instrumental in their revival this season. He is currently enjoying his most successful season in the ISL in terms of personal achievements, having scored two goals and provided as many assists in the 16 matches he has played so far.

The fleet-footed footballer has been seen playing across several positions as per the needs of his team and has been quite successful in doing so. Khan has also created the most number of goalscoring chances (26) for his team.

“When I was a kid, I always loved to play with the ball at my feet. I didn't have any preferred position or anything like that. I just wanted to have the ball all the time. In terms of what I need to improve, I need to be better without the ball. Football is a team game and I try my best to improve in all aspects and help my teammates,” Khan shared.

The 5’7” midfielder now aims to replicate his club form in the national team and help his country advance to the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, a feat that India aims to achieve for the first time in its history. Khan, currently preparing with the national team for their next away fixture against Afghanistan in Saudi Arabia, shared his experience so far and discussed the opportunity to represent the country on the international stage

“It's a great feeling to be a part of this family. It's a dream come true and I'm really happy. The coach and the teammates really support me. I've played with many of them before in different clubs. Every moment is fantastic with the national team. Next, I want to make my debut. But most of all, I want to win. These are really important matches for us in the World Cup Qualifiers," he said.

The 29-year-old also talked about his aim of not only scoring for the national side but also assisting the Indian captain, who has been his inspiration throughout his life.

“Yes, I want to score my first goal, but I really want to assist Sunil bhai,” Khan stated.