Gahlot: My dream is to see the national team qualify for the World Cup

Jamshedpur FC defender Narender Gahlot might just be 19 years old, but the youngster established himself as a mainstay in his team’s defence during the last Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season. The former Indian Arrows defender has set lofty career ambitions and hopes to lead his national team and club to the finals of the FIFA World Cup and the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League respectively.

“My dream is to see the national team qualifying for the FIFA World Cup. I didn’t dream of playing for a big club (overseas), but I want to reach the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final of the AFC Champions League with an Indian club,” Gahlot said in an interview with khelnow.com.

Gahlot made his national team debut against Tajikistan in the Hero Intercontinental Cup last year and the young defender reminisced about his first game with the Blue Tigers, he said, “I didn’t know I would play the first game. We had a practice session just before matchday and after that, in the team meeting, the coach (Igor Stimac) told me I will start and he said ‘I’m confident you’ll do well’ because I had a good practice game in Mumbai.”

The young defender is also of the opinion that Stimac is the kind of coach that boosts a player’s confidence. “The experience for me has been great. At Indian Arrows, we played a passing game and learnt to keep more possession and in the U-23 team, we played with the same philosophy. It has helped me personally in my game and (Stimac) is a kind of coach who gives confidence to players. Even if we make a mistake, he doesn’t shout at us, but he tells us to improve.”

Gahlot then revealed what prompted him to join Jamshedpur. “FC Goa and other clubs were interested in me but Sukhan sir (Gahlot’s academy coach) advised me to join Jamshedpur FC because of the facilities and the project. They promised me game-time and so I joined them.”

“I didn’t have a pre-season because I was involved with the U-19 national team in the AFC Championship Qualifiers. When I came back, four games had already been over. I came back and had a good training session just before the FC Goa game. The coach told me I’ll play, but after that our team faced injuries and everything went downhill,” Gahlot added while discussing Jamshedpur’s form last season.

The 19-year-old also discussed how he’s been keeping fit amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Looking at the competition for spots in the senior national team, we are keeping ourselves fit by doing exercises and workouts as well as doing some training with the ball,” he said.

Gahlot went on to speak about the national team’s performance in the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup joint Qualifiers and explained why he feels that the team is heading in the right direction. “I feel the team is moving in the right direction. The previous coach had a different philosophy and the new coach has brought a new philosophy, which the players are adapting to. The players are learning to keep possession and how to defend well which will only happen after some time. I have no doubts that the team will do well in the future.”

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