Image Credits: Niketh
Like many of his team-mates, Niketh Natraj has been part of the Raman Sports Academy for several years. Aged 16, Niketh lives in Bangalore and is currently studying XI at Kendriya Vidyalaya DRDO, Raman Nagar, Bangalore.
Preferring to play as a striker, the versatile midfielder has represented Karnataka State U-17 side that won the football Gold in Khelo India Youth Games 2019. He also played for U-16 Junior National BC Roy Trophy and India Under-16 National Team in the Future Champions International Tournament in South Africa. This all lead to being named in the ongoing National training camp in Bhubaneswar.
The U-16 age category has been selected, as AIFF believes this to be a crucial stage in a player's development pathway to the elite level. Niketh tells us why being a part of the RSA (Raman Sports Academy) is an "exciting time" and where he played his football growing up, as well as previewing the year ahead and much, much more.
Tell us a little bit about your background. And how did you developed passion for football?
My dad works for a central government Organization as a Security Guard. Military Engineer Services (MES) in DRDO and my mom is a house wife. I have two siblings elder sister and elder brother. We come from a lower middle class family and I have always wanted to help my family by achieving something big and the sport I loved from childhood is football, always enjoyed the game watching my seniors play back in DRDO hence developed the passion of playing the beautiful game.
What position do you play on the team? What are some challenges that you have faced?
I play the position of defending midfielder for the National side and I can also play in the Right Wing Back position. For the club, I play in the attacking midfield. Being the spine of the team, I need to contribute both in attack and defense which becomes a challenge at times and communication sometimes becomes a challenge. I need to have control on my aggression, hanging on to the ball too much is bad habit that I have.
Is there any player, in particular, growing up that you looked up to and inspired you with your playing style and if so why?
Neymar is my dream footballer. Back in the days, I used to play as a striker and always wanted to copy everything what Neymar does on the field. He is a stylish player, quality going forward and a great finisher as well.
What can you tell us about your playing style - what kind of footballer are you?
I will play anywhere I’m asked but coaches now normally see me in a midfield role. As a midfielder, I try to keep myself calm, cool and collective with controlled aggression. As a good passer and collectivist, I also like dribbling, crossing, assists and being a team player. How did the RSA play a role in your development? RSA gave me a chance to play for better experienced and knowledgeable coaches. One of the biggest things was that it gave me the platform to get identified by the National Side. That was a huge part in being able to play for the U16 National Team and get coached by Suvandu Panda, who was one of my favorite coaches I had the opportunity to work with so far.
What’s that best match you have ever played? And it was against which team?
Probably, the game against Bengaluru FC in the Under-15 I-league is by far the best match I have ever played.
Competing at such a young age, how did you juggle studies with sport?
Too be very frank, I have always been in the ground playing football and my parents have never pushed me to study they have always supported my passion.
Pick one – would you rather play an amazing game but lose or play an average game and win?
Play an average game and win.
Finally, what are your hopes for your footballing career, is there a level you would like to achieve?
I have been experiencing some Pro level football since my time with the RSA and I am still keen to get as high as I can in the game. There’s much I need to learn and I think RSA is a good place for me to be. And obviously, like everyone else, I want to don the blue jersey to play for the Senior Nationals team one day.