ISL 2018: Internet trolls motivate Jamshedpur FC forward 'Lord' Sumeet Passi to work harder on his comeback from injury
It may have been a promising season for ISL debutants Jamshedpur FC who finished sixth in the league, but the campaign was far less satisfying for their 23-year-old striker, Sumeet Passi.
The lanky forward, who spent most of his time sidelined due to injury, could only make two appearances in the entire season, accumulating a total playing time of 136 minutes.
"It was difficult for me to see my fellow colleagues practice and play matches where I was going through my rehab. I worked a lot with my strength coach at Jamshedpur to recover faster and without his constant guidance on the recovery process it wouldn’t be so fast," Passi said to Sportskeeda.
However, that did not stop the club from putting its faith in the young striker. "I am glad the management decided to offer me a new contract. I would like to thank the management for all the support and faith they have shown in me and I am looking forward to paying them back with my performance on the field in the upcoming season," he said.
The baby steps with the Arrows
Football flows through Passi's veins. His father Jai Prakash Passi was himself a footballer, who had played for Railways, back in his day. However, not everyone in his family was initially supportive of him taking up football.
"My mother didn’t want me to play football because when she saw my father getting injured she felt bad and she didn’t want me to go through the same," said Passi, who hails from Yamunanagar in Chandigarh.
In the end, though, his father persisted with his son's footballing dream, which finally came true when the young striker was picked in the Paillan Arrows (now Indian Arrows) side four years back.
"My father is the reason I am playing the sport. He always wants me to play for India so he spends a lot of time with me at the practice sessions," he said.
Despite the fact that this was still a developmental team by the AIFF, it was a great opportunity for the teenaged Passi. "I got to work with Sukhwinder Singh and Authur Papas, both former Indian national team coaches. I learned a lot there as a player and as a human.being. The best lesson I learnt was to become more disciplined," he opened up.
Gateway to the I-League and the ISL
The Paillan Arrows stint helped Passi get recognition on the national stage, as he soon had various offers from the top division clubs. He finally decided to join Sporting Clube de Goa, one of the traditional giants of Indian football.
"It was a normal transition as I was willing to push myself and test against the best in the country," he said. "Football in Goa was booming at that time hence I decided to go and play with SCG. Playing against and with the best in the country helped me to enhance my game further."
This is something that helped him make headways into the cash-rich Indian Super League as NorthEast United FC soon came knocking on the doors. Although the Highlanders could not make it to the semis, finishing fifth in the league, Passi and Co. enjoyed a lot of love from the passionate Guwahati supporters.
"It was a great experience, we had some great players in the squad and it gelled very well together. We played as a team and the response we got was overwhelming. Yes, it was disappointing to not qualify but we managed to win hearts," said Passi.
Having finished a season at NorthEast United FC, Passi was sent on loan to DSK Shivajians, before he was finally picked up by Jamshedpur FC in the ISL draft ahead of the 2017 season.
How 'Lord Passi' takes things in his stride
Injuries may have reduced his playing time to 136 minutes this season, but good news soon came, when national team head coach Stephen Constantine named him in the 32-man probables for India's final 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier in Kyrgyzstan.
Although Passi had made his national team debut in 2016 against Laos, his inclusion came as a bit of a surprise to many. However, when asked about his inclusion in the squad, the 23-year-old revealed the specific reason behind it.
"I wasn't really surprised by the call-up. The national probables was more to test my fitness as I had been sidelined for a long duration. It is always a great feeling to get a call-up for the national camp," he said.
His inclusion may have been with the intention of testing the fitness of an athlete who was just returning from an injury, but that did not stop the critics from letting their opinion being known. A number of Blue Tigers' fans came out on social media to slam his inclusion. Incidentally, some creative minds decided to use this selection to troll the Jamshedpur forward.
However, Passi himself takes all the trolling in his stride and with a smile. In fact, the tag 'Lord Passi' even motivates him to better his performances.
"It's fantastic, isn’t it? Most of the trolls are genuinely creative and funny and I would like to thank them if I may. Their creative jokes motivates ‘Lord Passi’ to perform better," he said. "I am looking forward to the next season and with God’s grace, I am sure to make it a very successful one for my team and my country."
It is not every day that we see a football player taking such criticism in his stride and in this manner. Of course, Passi has had his ups and downs in his short career, but he has already shown the mentality required to sustain himself at the top level -- through thick orthin.