India's first-ever FIFA World Cup scorer Jeakson Singh was earlier rejected by national selectors
Jeakson Singh wrote his name into Indian football folklore when he scored the country's first ever FIFA World Cup goal. He rose highest to thump in a header from Sanjeev Stalin's cross in the 82nd minute of the group game against Colombia to record an equaliser. Though India lost the game 1-2, the goal will be cherished by the Indian footballing fraternity for years to come.
The 16-year-old who hails from Manipur spent his formative years in Chandigarh at the Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA), nearly 2700 km away from his hometown. His early introduction to the sport came from his father who was a coach.
Though many of us don't know that India's first-ever FIFA World Cup scorer, Jeakson Thounaojam, was rejected by national selectors in 2015 due to his height. When the then India U-17 chief coach Nicolai Adam visited the Chandigarh Football Academy, he felt the 6ft Jeakson was "unnaturally tall" for a 14-year-old.
After Minerva Punjab won the 2017 U16 Youth I-League in Mumbai by defeating Ozone FC 3-0 in the final with Jeakson scoring a long-range stunner early on, he and several of his teammates caught the attention of chief scout Abhishek Yadav, who decided to invite them for a match against the U17 World Cup Indian team.
Jeakson side’s 1-0 victory over the World Cup-bound team and his performance was enough to catch the eye of Luis Norton de Matos, who had replaced Adam at the helm, and team COO Yadav. He was then called up to join the Indian Colts. The rest, as they say, is history.
While Jeakson's thumping header proved to be just a consolation for India as they slumped to a defeat to Colombia, his goal could be an epochal moment as far as the long-term interests of Indian football are concerned. There might not be widespread applause for Jeakson's goal, but by planting the ball past Kevin Mier in the Colombia goal, the midfielder has sown the seeds of the future which might not have been possible if he didn't do well for Minerva in that friendly match.
Watch Jeakson Thounaojam's goal against Colombia: