By Shraishth Jain
AIFF Media Team
KOLKATA: 23 years of age. 12 appearances. 11 goals. 2 consecutive hat-tricks. 1st Indian in Hero I-League history to do so.
TRAU FC's Bidyashagar Singh has taken the league by storm since the start of the second phase, registering a whopping six goals in his last two matches and catching the eye of football fans across the nation. On the top scorers' list, he has emerged as the cream of the crop. But, it was not too long ago that the young lad from Samaram Mayai Leikai in Manipur could be seen working in the village paddy fields to lend his family a hand.
"My father is a farmer and my mother is a housewife. During my initial years, it was very difficult financially to buy football boots and equipment. Sometimes, I even used to go to the paddy field to support my family. However, despite the challenges, they have always been supportive of my footballing dreams and are always there for me," Bidyashagar told i-league.org in a candid chat.
Becoming a football player is a dream he shared with his father and now with the forward in the middle of what has been a dream season, Bidyashagar could not hide his joy as he talked about the 'happiest parents in the world'.
"My father wanted to be a footballer when he was young but my grandfather did not want him to become one as at that time, there were very few players around. He always wanted to play and when I said that I want to play football, he has always supported me. It has been his dream to see me as a footballer."
"There is no greater than joy than seeing my parents so proud of me. They are the happiest parents in the world," an emotional Bidyashagar smiled.
'FORGET ALL PAIN WHEN I PLAY FOOTBALL'
It was at the age of 11 that the pacey forward took his first steps in the Beautiful Game and was remains ever-grateful to his first-ever mentor – former Indian women's national team forward Prameshwori, who he considers as his 'elder sister' and 'biggest fan'.
"I started playing football when I was in 6th standard. I played with my friends in my locality at a ground very close to my house. I used to enjoy it a lot," he said.
"I am thankful to Prameshwori Devi, who was my first-ever coach and taught me everything about football. She taught me how to dribble, how to kick and has always been there when I needed her. She has been a big influence on me and keeps supporting me. She is my biggest fan!" Bidyashagar beamed.
With time, his precocious talent began to bloom and as he began to make a name in the local circuit, Bidyashagar's desire to make it as a professional grew stronger and stronger.
"When I was in 10th standard, I started playing local tournaments and in all the tournaments I played, I would always be top scorer. I love the fact that football is a team game and when I play football, I feel happy. I forget all my pain and worries when I step on to the pitch and just enjoy the game. I had all the support I could have asked for and it was then that I decided that I want to be a professional footballer," he recollected.
THE BLUE TIGERS DREAM
With his six-goal burst in the two games against Mohammedan SC and Real Kashmir FC, the TRAU jersey number 11 finds himself at the summit of the goalscoring charts in the Hero I-League with 11 goals – three more than his nearest competitor, Luka Majcen.
"I feel very lucky to score so many goals and make a new record (first Indian to score two consecutive hat-tricks). I feel humble and thankful to God. In the Hero I-League, there are so many quality Indian and foreign players, and being on top of the scoring list makes me feel very happy for me and my family," he quipped.
The young gun also expressed his desire to continue his scoring run in the competition and make a claim for a place in the Indian national team.
Bidyashagar stated, "Every footballer wants to be a part of the national team and so do I. I have full faith in head coach Mr. Igor Stimac and also in my abilities and performance. I want to score more and more goals in the Hero I-League. I feel that it's a great platform for me and I want to keep doing better and keep moving forward."
BACK TO THE START
Currently in his first season at the senior level for TRAU, Bidyashagar has already represented the club at youth level and credited his time with the team as a junior player as a 'great experience'.
"I had joined TRAU first as a junior player at the age of 16 and it was a great experience for me there. Our current assistant coach (Khumanthem Surmani Singh) was the main coach at that time and I want to thank him. He helped me a lot back then and is still helping me here in the Hero I-League," he shared.
After successful trials, the attacker signed for Kolkata giants East Bengal and went on to spend four years at the club, where he made 11 appearances in the iconic colours of the club in the Hero I-League and impressed at the Durand Cup in 2019, scoring five goals.
He said, "I gained a lot of experience during my time in Kolkata with East Bengal. They are one of the biggest clubs in Indian football and I can never forget the goal I scored against Shillong Lajong. It was my debut goal in the Hero I-League and it will always be close to my heart."
'WANT TO WIN HERO I-LEAGUE CROWN FOR MANIPUR'
After Churchill Brothers' defeat at the hands of Gokulam Kerala FC, the race for the league title has been thrown wide open with TRAU FC and the Malabarians trailing the Red Machines by just three points, with three matches left for each team to play. No club from Manipur has ever been crowned Hero I-League champions and should TRAU go on and lift the trophy, Bidyshagar feels that it will be a 'great achievement' for the entire state.
"In the Hero I-League, every match is crucial. We have to try and win all our matches. We will give our best and all the players in the team are combining well and supporting each other," he said.
Bidyashagar continued, "Manipur is a powerhouse of sports and everyone there loves and wants to play football. So many professional footballers come from the state. In almost every house, there is a footballer!"
"Winning the Hero I-League this year would be fantastic. The fans and people of Manipur will be very happy and it will be a great achievement for the whole state. I want to thank the people of Manipur for their continuous support. We will continue giving our best to win the title and be the Hero I-League champions!"