Playing at this level, I hope to see more players coming from my city: Bengaluru FC striker Sivasakthi Narayanan
Bengaluru FC emerged as the champions of the Durand Cup 2022, a maiden triumph which they accomplished after a long haul, with a spotlight on Sunil Chhetri who completed his trophy cabinet with all the achievable major Indian honours.
Asia’s oldest football tournament, the Durand Cup is known to produce intricate sporting chronicles and gives birth to young talents who want to make their way into Indian football aside from the incredible sporting spectacles.
This edition of the Durand Cup saw a young prodigy from Bengaluru FC rise to the occasion. With his splendid skills and a killer instinct for goals, the youngster spearheaded the Blues' iconic title triumph. Sivasakthi Narayanan rose through the ranks from the BFC academy, thrived in a newly-led Bengaluru team, and became his side’s top scorer with five goals including an opening goal in the final against Mumbai City FC.
Narayanan made his attacking presence felt in the Next Gen Cup too as the striker netted a brace in the game against Leicester City FC. A standout striker throughout his time at the Bengaluru FC academy, Narayanan only needed a big-game opportunity to sizzle and show his attacking capabilities, which he remarkably delivered at the biggest of stages and against the biggest of teams.
"It is a big tournament and I knew this was my chance to shine. I am thrilled that I can contribute to the team and it feels good to be the champions," Narayanan told The Bridge.
Narayanan hails from a tiny town of Kandanur in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu that has a thriving football culture, with 7-a-side being the most popular.
"I started with playing in the mud grounds. One day I heard about trials being held, so I went with my brother and gave the trials. After the selection to Noble Academy, I used to play the 7-side tournaments for my academy and it used to be fun playing with my brother. We used to play in mud ground but it was mostly 7-side football," said Siva about his early football days.
"Later, I joined Raman Vijayan Academy in Chennai and I started playing at the U-18 level. I scored a lot of goals at the U-18 level and that is where Bengaluru FC came calling. Initially, I thought it was a prank but after signing the papers, I knew this is not a dream or a prank, it is true," Narayanan added on how BFC came calling.
The transition in playing from the pastoral grounds of Kandanur to the Sree Kanteerava stadium has been a colossal one for the striker and he accredits his family and Bengaluru FC for mustering up his courage and supporting him during these testing times.
"I am close to my mother and the team has also supported me. Seniors like Sunil Bhai [Chhetri], Gurpreet Bhai [Singh Sandhu] and many others always keep me motivated. I have learnt not to take pressure from them and be focused on my work. These people have taught me how to deal with things off the pitch," he added.
The startling fact about the 21-year-old is that he managed to score four of his five goals coming on from the bench, which earned him the merit to start in the final where he delivered yet another exceptional performance with an opening goal. With the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna alongside him in the attack, Narayanan poses an upward trajectory in the career and has the potential to exploit.
"Sunil Chhetri is my favourite footballer and being around him motivates me to do well. It was an amazing moment for me and I am very happy that I scored a goal in the final. I have grown as a player. I used to play in mud grounds and now it is very professional. I understand tactics and the gameplay better now. I believe that I have to work harder now since people know me now and keep proving by giving my best,” he added.
The striker strikes as the perfect example of how football has the potential to change your life as he encourages more people from his town to take up football.
"People back home are happy that one of them can play on such a big stage and such big names. With me playing at this level, kids back home will take up football more seriously and I hope to see more players coming from my city," he said about how his performances can influence the community.
As with other players, Narayanan too aspires to play for the Indian national team but clarified that he doesn’t want to rush into too many things at once.
“I want to play for the national team but right now it is not running on my mind. At the moment, I want to play and do well for BFC in ISL and earn my place in the national team,” he said.
"I haven't done anything extraordinary. It is all hard work and anyone who plays with a serious mind and works hard can reach here. Coming from a small city in Tamilnadu, all I did was put my head down, work hard and grab every opportunity which comes my way," he concluded.