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It's always a fresh sigh of relief to spot that one talent in a legion of players who isn't trying too hard to impress, rather is so natural in his approach that it forces you to get up and take notice. One such prodigy is Sohail Khatri, 24-year-old captain and the highest goal-scorer of Mumbai District, who currently plays for Fateh Hyderabad in I- League 2.
Once you sit down with him to have a conversation, you quickly progress to realize that he is anything but one among the herd. While the world stands divided between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Sohail is quite clear with his choice of footballer and doesn't shy away from saying it out aloud. He strongly advocates the message of Mohamed Salah who believes in promoting peace, both on and off the field. While getting into the top tier of Indian football is yet a far-stretched dream for Khatri, he continues to be optimistic of his abilities and doesn’t want to rush into things only to be in the limelight. Read more to know the future rising star better!
How did your journey with football start?
My journey with football started with my father's passion for the sport. He would go to the beach with his friends on weekends and play football. It was then when I started watching his game and began to admire the sport. So once I asked him if I could join him for a game and that’s how it all started for me.
How supportive was the atmosphere (parents, school, college, etc) around you?
I was blessed to have an extremely supportive environment. My parents always encouraged me to chase my dreams but they also said one thing, "Progress in your endeavour but do not neglect academics". My friends in school and college also showed a lot of belief in me, they kept assuring me that I will achieve great success in football. It's always good to know that there are so many people believe in you.
When did you take up the game seriously and professionally?
As I mentioned earlier, it all started with my father's passion for the sport, so similarly, the dream of taking the sport ahead also resulted from my dad's failure to play the sport professionally. Dad had always dreamt of playing football professionally but unfortunately he couldn't make it due to family problems. So after I finished my higher studies from Nationals College, I started watching football customarily and learned about the different ways of how I can pursue a career in football.
Any player you look up to?
Yes, Mohamed Salah as he spreads the message of peace on and off the field.
Where do you see yourself considering the Indian football scene?
With the arrival of Indian Super League (ISL), a lot of foreign coaches and players have come into the Indian scene. This gives domestic players like us an opportunity to learn but in the process a lot of Indian players find themselves struggling to find a place in the team and this forces many to quit in the end, because you never know what financial or personal crisis they might be in. In fact, there are only a couple of teams in I-league today who have an all-Indian players’ squad. So considering the Indian football scene, I am being optimistic about my chance of getting to play in the I-League soon! Hard work always pays off.
Did you have to face any obstacle in your footballing career? Any type of politics pertaining to selection that you think you were subjected to?
It’s a known fact today that most of the trials are conducted only for namesake and the team/state team selectors choose their best bets beforehand. It is like ‘the better relation a player shares with his coach/ selector higher are his chances of making it to the team’, even if it means there are better and more talented players than them. This is one of the biggest obstacles that I think we Indian players have to face, and I am sure many would agree to this.
If you can list some of your achievements so far?
I was one of the very few youngsters who got a chance to be a part of Bajaj Allianz Junior camp in 2012. I also consider myself fortunate enough to have been trained under eminent coaches and players of Bayern Munich, I consider this as my biggest achievement so far. Most recently, becoming the top scorer of Mumbai District team along with leading the team.
What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months/ one year?
Our season (I-league 2) will be starting soon, so the preparations for the same are already underway. So the next six months are going to be full of competitive matches which will give us so much exposure along with a great learning experience. But most importantly, I am looking forward to enjoy good games of football.
When would we get to see you play in the I-League or ISL?
I will try to perform well in I-league 2 and if everything goes well then there might be a good chance of getting to play the next season itself.
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