Image Credits: FISTO STAFF
Sethu FC’s defender 20-year-old Juki, is regarded as the finest up-and-coming central defender in India.
Juki established herself as a first team regular at the age of 18, and has played with great consistency and maturity over the past year.
Excerpts from the interview
To start off, tell us a bit about your early years. What got you started playing football, and what were the first memorable kicks/goals that come to mind?
I have come from very humble beginnings and grew up in Panangudi village, Thiruvarur. I was 8th standard when I started playing, so it was just only for fun but it was only after that I found my passion and my love for this game through couple of summer camps in Sellapa Academy at my native place. I played my firstU-14 nationals in 10th standard. At first the transition was tough. However, in footballing terms I learned a lot. So it helped me and I’m really happy to have had an experience like that. Raju helped me in lot in my school time where I played before I went to Anna University. And I have got a very supportive father and three close friends in the name of Dinesh, Natraj and Abu (Bhai) who has always supported me for playing.
What position do you play and how would you describe your style of play?
I would say I am versatile player in terms as I have played a lot of football at centre-half but started as a right back and really enjoyed it because it’s my best position, also I played as a striker during my college days but also having to defend.
Who have been your footballing influences and which players have you looked to emulate?
Footballers I have always admired, there are so many. Europe has always had so many great players. I like Cristiano Ronaldo for his incredible goal-scoring skills and the way he plays.
With these influences, what type of player is Juki?
I am like a player who is very calm on the ball, genuine. I like to always play it out from the back, I am a very quick player, who tries to approach on the field duels intelligently, I try to be a danger from dead ball situations. I am a player who tries to maintain high concentration for 90 minutes. On the pitch I am very serious, but when I am off it I like to laugh and enjoy everything I do.
What you like most about football?
Playing football is a great way to learn about teamwork. The bigger the dream, the bigger the team. Football builds character. If you want to play – play. Mainly do what you enjoy.
What was it like for you to play for Sethu FC ?
Sethu have a solid foundation and are a good club that have many young players. After finishing second in the South Zone in my first year of B.P.Ed and then next year Sethu FC approached me to play for them. One of the thing I like about Sethu is that they place emphasis on the education of their youth players. They also encourage you as a player to be aware of nutrition and power training. It’s a fantastic experience to be here and you have to give everything. This is my third year with Sethu FC. It’s like a family club.
How’s the last two seasons went for the club?
It was good, we were all really optimistic of winning that game. A lot of expectation in the Senior Nationals. We knew that if we won that game, we would get close to the title. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it. That is normal whenever we lose a game, that too when you concede through silly mistake but I felt it more in this case because it was a key game. We knew that we played a great game, and really they were unfortunate mistakes that led to the goals. That was probably what hurt us the most. The match was close but we weren’t able to win despite that.
What are you hoping to achieve his season both for yourself and for the club as a whole?
We have to win the IWL title. It’s not going to be easy, but I think it’s something that we can do. We know that we have important matches coming up in the group stages so we try to go about it the best way possible and always motivated. On personal note, I hope to deliver as many as number of crosses to my teammates so that they can score goals and win games.
Who do you think is the most dangerous player on the Manipur team?
From what I’ve seen, Manipur Police is a good team. They play very good football. We know that they have good players who play in India. However, we know that there is Bala Devi who is an excellent player. They have players from National team who can make a difference but I also believe that we have players who can compete.