Kolkata: The Amarjit Singh Kiyam led boys became the first Indian team to play in a FIFA World Cup, but it was not only them but coach Luis Norton de Matos, also became the first ever coach to manage an Indian team in the World Cup. The 63-year-old, although appointed just five months before the U-17 World Cup has already made a great bonding with the young Indian boys and unlike previous coach Nicolai Adam, he is considered to be perfect coach for the blue tigers, by none other than Indian midfielder, Mohammad Shahjahan.
Calling De Matos ‘very different’ from the other coaches, Shahjahan in an exclusive interview with SportsCrunch said, “Norton de Matos is not like the other coaches. He has very good temperament and doesn’t look for mistakes, but corrects them and guides us in the right way. In total he is a great human being.”
“He has brought a revolution in Indian football. While earlier coaches use to prefer playing long balls, De Matos has taught us to play possession based football, with short passes. Consistently, trying to teach us, sir is one of the main reasons for our good performances in the World Cup,” added the Manipur boy.
Youngest of eight siblings, Shahjahan’s journey to the Indian team has not been easy. He was nine, when his brother enrolled him in the Youth Organisation Sporting Club, the future star’s first steps into football. Voted the best player in the U-13 and U-14 academy level, Shahjahan was soon invited for a trial at the Kalyani academy in West Bengal.
“Yes, it had been tough earlier but I played well and took my chances and that is the reason i was selected for the World Cup,” said the 17-year-old.
Things however took a turn when he joined the AIFF Elite Academy. He was soon dropped from the U-15 squad under Nicolai Adam and as a result left the academy in search of game time. But like many players from the north-eastern region of the country, Shahjahan found a life-line when he was picked by Minerva Punjab FC in 2016.
The Chandigarh based residential Academy club, now the home of many budding indian footballers, installed new energy in the boy and Shahjahan hasn’t looked back since then.
He says, “The AIFF academy may have facilities, but no game time. Minerva has given me the chance to play almost all the matches, I have even played for the club’s senior team. I don’t care about facilities, playing is more important for me and Minerva has given me that. I love the club.”
Shahjahan also thanked the Indian crowd for their invaluable support throughout the tournament. “After the first match we were disappointed and thought no one will support us in the next matches. But many people came and cheered, it motivated us,” he said.
His father works as a tailor, but although the family finds it hard to gather a day’s meal, Shahjahan’s parents have always supported their child’s aspirations and today he considers them as his inspiration. “My parents and my family have done a lot, to help me build my career. My father is a tailor but always supported me, they are my inspiration. I always strive to make my parents proud,” he added.
From being questioned, ‘Will you be able to play the world cup if i buy you a boot? when he asked his father for a football shoe, to actually playing in the World Cup, life has indeed come a long way for the Manipuri lad.
His first most priority is to play for the Indian senior national football team and almost going out of the contest he concluded, “I love my club, but I want to fulfill my dream of playing in the senior national football team first.”