Over the last few years, Rahul KP has been knocking on the doors of the Indian national football team. The youngster, who made a handful of appearances for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League last season, impressed one and all with his prowess on the left wing.
This season, the 21-year-old will be playing alongside some of the biggest names in international football such as Gary Hooper, Vicente Gomez and Bakary Kone.
Rahul KP recently spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview ahead of the 2020-21 edition of the ISL. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Q1. You made your debut for Kerala Blasters last season, making a few appearances and scoring a goal too. Can you describe the experience?
Rahul KP: It was a great feeling to make my debut at Kochi in front of all the fans. My family came to watch me play and were very proud and happy. Scoring a goal for the club was a fantastic experience but that feeling to score your first goal for one of the biggest football clubs in India is unexplainable.
I missed a few matches due to injury but the support from fans, the coaching staff, and the management helped me come back stronger. Their appreciation is what inspires me to perform better this season.
Q2. Apart from being from Kerala, was there anything else that made you sign for the Kerala Blasters?
Rahul KP: KBFC is one of the biggest football clubs in India, having one of the most passionate fanbases. They showed immense faith in my skills to give me this opportunity for a longer period.
The club has great plans to build a futuristic team around young talented players, and I am very excited to be a part of this project and to play in front of my own fans.
Q3. Do you prefer the right wing or the left wing? Or are you fine playing on both wings?
Rahul KP: I am happy to play in any attacking position because I like to score goals and go up one on one against the defenders. I have played in different positions throughout my career, and I feel it is important for a player to be comfortable in any position the coach wants them to play in for the benefit of the team. For example, during the U-17 World Cup, I was asked to play at right-back, and I believe I did a good job too.
Q4. Very few footballers from India get to play in FIFA tournaments. Can you talk a little about your experience playing in the U17 World Cup in India?
Rahul KP: Playing in the World Cup was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I was really happy to play every minute of all our matches that made my family and the people of my state proud.
I had put in a lot of hard work and effort to represent my country, and it was a really proud moment to walk out on the pitch donning the Indian jersey. There was a lot of difference in the technical abilities and skills of our opponents.
I feel it is important that we start training at a very young age (of 4-5 years) to develop that level of skill and technical awareness. The World Cup was a great motivator for me to push harder and improve myself further.
Q5. Growing up, which player did you grow up idolizing? And why?
Rahul KP: When I was young, my uncle used to take me to the 7s matches which are very popular in Kerala, and that’s where I found my love for football. I started by playing 7s football, and it was my uncle who motivated me to play at a higher level. I am where I am today all because of him, and I can’t thank him enough.
One day, he showed me a World Cup match of Brazil, and that was when Ronaldinho caught my eye. He always played with a smile on his face and was very skillful. As time passed, I idolized Cristiano Ronaldo for his dedication and hard work because I strongly believe it is my hard work that has got me here, and I resonate a lot with Ronaldo’s story.
Q6. Do you like creating goals or scoring goals? Which gives you more joy?
Rahul KP: Scoring goals, for sure. I love to score goals and see my name on the scoresheet. But I am happy to provide assists as well because picking the right pass for a player in a better position is very important for the team. Winning as a squad is what matters to me the most. It doesn’t matter whether I score or assist. As long as I help the team perform well, I will be happy.
Q7. You are now contracted with the Kerala Blasters for the next few years. What are your expectations from the team and the league?
Rahul KP: Kerala Blasters has a strong and well-defined vision to build a young and exciting team. Knowing that the club believes in me and has a plan for me, gave me a lot of confidence to sign with KBFC in the long term.
As a player, I want to be compared with the best footballers in the league, and I will work hard to achieve it. I expect nothing but the best efforts from the team.
Q8. Those who have watched you play know that you are very fast. What is your secret to speed?
Rahul KP: During my school days, I was an athlete. My uncle used to give me a workout routine and tips on how to run fast. To improve my skills, he had advised me to put some weight on my legs, get used to walking with it for a couple of months, and then try running with it. I used to win every athletic competition like relays, sprints, and 200 dashes. All credit goes to my uncle.
Right now, I am focusing on getting back into shape from my hamstring injury last season and to improve my speed.
Q9. What are your expectations heading into the new season?
Rahul KP: Personally, I aim to be better than last season, work harder each day, and get to the top. I have faith in the team and my teammates; we have a good coaching staff, and I believe we can do better this season.Published 28 Oct 2020, 13:04 IST