AIFF Media Team
KHAO YAI, THAILAND: Every kid that loves football dreams of donning their national team jersey one day, and scoring a goal in front of their fans. Well, almost every kid. The India U-17 Men’s National Team has one such boy, who, it can be said, is an exception to that.
Goalkeeper Pranav Sundarraman is one of the 10 players, who have been inducted into the Indian squad that will participate in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup after the Qualifiers last year, and has improved at every step since then. However, what sets him apart from most other teenagers of his age is that Pranav derives an immense pleasure from thwarting the efforts of attacking players, rather than from scoring himself.
Indeed, when the young custodian was even younger, he had started out as a midfielder, but his love for the dark arts of defence got the better of him.
“Yes, when I had initially joined the academy, I had started out as a midfielder, but as I kept playing, I realised that I had more fun stopping other people from scoring, than I did from scoring myself, or from setting up a goal for my teammates,” Pranav told the-aiff.com.
“I guess, in a way, the whole point of football is for the fans to come and see good attacking football, and to see beautiful goals,” he laughed. “But for me, it’s the exact opposite. I enjoy saving goals more than scoring. It’s not an easy feeling to describe. You either get it, or you don’t.”
His coaches at the Bengaluru academy took notice of his propensity to keep the ball out of the net, and soon decided to give Pranav a more direct role as a protector of the goal.
“It was a bit difficult for me at first. Initially, all I liked doing was to save penalties and free-kicks, but there are so many more aspects to goalkeeping, which I began to learn and inculcate in my game,” said Pranav. “Of course, having played as a midfielder meant that I had a bit of an advantage with the ball at my feet, but it was all about developing the other attributes, which I am still working on right now.”
The 16-year-old got his first opportunity to play a game for India in the training match against Atletico de Madrid U-18s in Madrid, Spain, a match that will remain special in his memory.
“It was a special game for me, to play for India for the first time, and for it to be against a club like Atletico Madrid was something I had never thought I'd ever be able to do,” said Pranav. “I had only got an opportunity in this team later on, and came in after trials, but the experiences in Spain and Germany really motivated me.
“I’ve learnt a lot during my time with this team, and the experiences have helped me grow as a player. I hope that we can dish out a good performance in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup and go even further,” he said.