Indian Football: 'Dream come true, won't take this for granted,' says Michael Soosairaj after first ever call-up to National team camp
"Around 11 in the morning, Edwin (Sydney Vanspaul, the Chennai City FC defender) called me and congratulated me, I didn't know for what," says Michael Soosairaj, when asked how he learned of his first ever call-up to the Indian National Team camp.
"It was only after Edwin told me, that I checked on social media, and I was so happy. This is my dream," a beaming Soosairaj told Sportskeeda in an exclusive chat on the day he was named in Igor Stimac's first preliminary India squad.
Soosairaj has had a stellar couple of seasons, first in the I-League with Chennai City FC, and then in the ISL with Jamshedpur, and this is just a reward for all the performances that he has put up. But he doesn't want to stop here.
"I will give my best in the camp. In the end, only 23 players can get selected. There are 37 top-class players now in the camp, and anyone that makes it to the final 23 will be the best India has," he said.
Throughout the chat, the Tamil Nadu native's gratitude for all the fans who have continually had his back was evident, and he said that this call-up was a culmination of all the good wishes and prayers so many people had for him.
He said it did irk him that other players were being called out and even abused on social media, by fans ranting about his own non-selection.
"See (Sumeet) Passi for example. I play with him at Jamshedpur, I know how good he is. He deserves his India spot, but there were fans who were abusing him, with my name. That did not feel nice, and I felt it wasn't right," he said.
Soosairaj also said that he wasn't taking this call-up for granted. "Look at the number of new players now. Brandon (Fernandes), (Rahul) Bheke, Nandhakumar (Sekar), (Lallianzuala) Chhangte, all of them deserve it. So, I can't say it was not fair for me to have waited to get my call-up."
The former Chennai City player cannot wait to go to New Delhi, and start the camp with his good mate, and former team-mate Nandhakumar. "Nandha and I were joking about it, we were so happy about being in the camp together," he said.
They're going to be roommates, for sure, then? "Of course," he chuckled.
Can't wait to play with Chhetri
It is only natural for every young footballer in India to be in awe of, and idolise Sunil Chhetri, and Soosairaj is no different.
For him, this camp also leads to the fulfilment of another dream he had, which was to play with the Indian captain.
"Chhetri bhai, I don't have to tell you how great he is. For me to now be able to train with him is a wonderful opportunity."
Jamshedpur is unique
Soosairaj couldn't stop gushing about the atmosphere and the environment he played in at Jamshedpur FC. "The club, the fans, the city, it is something unique. I loved the whole season and the experience," he says.
"Jamshedpur is a small town, so the situation is almost like everyone knows everyone. The fans there are one of a kind," he says, heaping praise on the faithful that turned up every matchday, at the JRD Tata Sports Complex.
"You will play for India" - Tim Cahill
That's what Australian superstar Tim Cahill told Soosairaj during one training session.
"He is a great man," Soosairaj says. "After every training session, he would talk to us and keep motivating us."
"I'm going to text him now, I'm sure he will be very happy," Soosairaj said.
Michael Soosairaj is happy, and for everyone who has followed his journey through the ranks in Indian football, there can't but be a smile on their faces.
The boy from little Eraviputhenthurai, near the southern-most tip of India, now has the country at his feet. He doesn't want to stop. With Michael Soosairaj, you just know he is not going to be satisfied just yet.