FIFA U17 World Cup: Bengaluru's contribution to the Indian U17 team
When India won the rights to host the FIFA U17 World Cup there were a lot of talks and rumours of Bengaluru being a venue for the high profile tournament. But when the venues were finally announced, the football loving fans of Bengaluru did not have any good news to celebrate as Karnataka's capital city was not chosen as a venue for the World Cup matches.
However, better news was just around the corner for the Bengaluru football fraternity when the India squad for the FIFA U17 World Cup was announced. Two boys from the city were selected in the squad and that sparked off celebrations in the football-crazy pockets of Bengaluru. Sanjeev Stalin and Hendry Antonay were the two lucky boys from Bengaluru in the Indian squad.
These two teenage boys had been part of the junior Indian teams for a few years and their selection was not a surprising one.
Sanjeev, a defender and usually who plays in the left back position, is also the team's dead-ball specialist. In fact, how can one forget the cross he gave from a corner in the match against Colombia which resulted in India's first FIFA World Cup goal. It was his assist which was headed inside the goal post by Jeakson Singh and sparked off wild celebrations in the stadium and also across India.
It was the goal which he scored against UAE in AFC U16 Championships which gave him the initial fame and limelight. It was a goal which he scored through a free kick.
Sanjeev, who comes from a humble background, developed an interest for the game from his father who always dreamt of his son becoming a professional footballer. It was his dad who introduced him to the game of football. In a recent interview, Sanjeev was asked who has been his greatest inspiration in football and the name which came out from his mouth was his father's.
Sanjeev always had strong support from his entire family, they gave him confidence and made him believe in his abilities and convinced him to take football seriously.
Born on January 1, 2001, in Bengaluru, Sanjeev joined the Chandigarh Football Academy at the age of 10.
Like Sanjeev Stalin, Hendry Antonay is also a defender in the Indian team.
Hendry picked up his footballing boots in Bengaluru’s Austin Town like the rest of his peers in the locality. He soon caught the eye of Sports Authority of India coach Mary Victoria when he took part in a ‘Come and Play Scheme’.
Hendry has a twin brother Ajay Alex and they both play at Ozone FC, which is a Bengaluru-based professional football club.
When Ajay was asked about his brother Hendry this is how he responded, “He always wanted to be a football player, he used to not concentrate on studies, he just wanted to play football."
It was at Ozone, under the club’s patronage, that he played football professionally and moved to Pune FC to play for their U15 I-League team. During his two-year stint at the club, he was also part of the Karnataka state team at the U14 level and broke into the national team in the same category before joining Pune FC.
In fact, for both these players, their careers have just started. Hopefully, they will continue on their upward trajectory.