Dubai [UAE], October 22 (ANI): Indian national team regulars Lalengmawia Ralte and Suresh Singh Wangjam, who were among the four members of the Blue Tigers' victorious South Asian Football Championship (SAFF) squad, will take inspiration from that win for the upcoming AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The duo has brought forward the professionalism and discipline of the Senior squad into the U23 contingent. Their current teammates, most of whom have been with them at the U17 World Cup team, and later on in the Indian Arrows never miss that chance to remind them about their seniority.
"The SAFF Championship in the Maldives was a huge learning experience. Life for a footballer is not about what is being done on the field, but also off it, and a major part of that," Lalengmawia said.
"We were not off to a good start, and there was disappointment all around. It was a do-or-die situation for us, everyone had written us off. That was from there when we turned the tables - all stuck together - the senior players, ourselves, the technical and support staff, and obviously the Coach," Suresh stated.
"The team spirit, the togetherness, the self-belief helped us win it. We will carry the experience with us forever," he added
The journey for all of them had started long back at the AIFF Academy project in Goa for the U17 World Cup. Life was never a bed of roses, especially staying away from the family at that tender age, not to forget the immense competition for slots even at that age. But the duo remembers each moment vividly.
"When I was a kid, or rather we all were kids, we used to assemble in front of the television to watch the Senior Team play. Sunil Chhetri was our idol along with Subrata Paul, Jeje Lalpekhlua and others. Now we have graduated to the Senior Team and it feels surreal to share the same dressing room with Sunil-bhai," Rahim Ali said.
"We had a dream - all of us. We still nurture that dream. We have achieved only a part of it and it motivates us to dream further, and beyond," Dheeraj Singh said.
India play Oman in their first match of the Qualifiers of the AFC U23 Asian Cup on October 24 which will be followed by matches against UAE and Kyrgyz Republic respectively. (ANI)