However, another new face in the elite list is that of C.K.Vineeth, the left winger who has played brilliant football this season for Prayag United. The midfielder sounded jubilant when Goal.com had an exclusive chat with him shortly after his selection.
"Yes, I am very happy. It was a dream to play for my country. I want to thank everybody who has helped me in the process. It’s more special since the game is at Kochi and I am from Kerala. I am looking forward to perform before the home crowd," remarked the 24-year old.
He also said that he is hopeful to make it to the final eleven. It will be a tough task for him as many of the more experienced footballers will also vie for those coveted spots as he will be up against the likes of Clifford Miranda and possibly Arata. "I am hopeful. I have done well in this year’s league. I am working hard these days. I wish I can play my first match in my home state," remarked Vineeth.
|Pune FC's Arata Izumi along with Vineeth has received a national call-up|
The midfielder caught the eyes of the football lovers last season for Chirag United Kerala when he scored a couple of braces in the I-League against Shillong Lajong and Mumbai FC. He has been impressive this season also with his trademark down the line runs in the left flank, often creating havoc in the opponent defence.
According to him, experiences in both the clubs have helped him learn. "Chirag United Kerala was my first I-League club. I have had my first lessons there. Prayag has a more star-studded dressing room. It has been an honour for me to share the same field with the likes of Subrata Paul, Gouramangi Singh, who are some of the best footballers in the country. They have also helped me improve. Playing with good players gives you the necessary motivation to excel and this is one the main reasons behind my success," said the Kerala man.
The midfielder also thanked the Prayag officials for their constant support. "It has been so nice of them. Nabab Bhattacharya (Prayag official) has helped me in all respect. Be it my family or problems at work, they were always there to help me out. I am also thankful to my first coach and my family for the mental support they have provided me with. I will do my best to fulfil the expectations," Vineeth told Goal.com.
The call to the national side comes at a point in his life when Vineeth, who turns 25 on February 28, is struggling with a personal crisis. He was at Kannur taking care of his father, who is recovering from a brief illness, when the good news reached him.
As a result of his national call-up, Vineeth becomes the first Keralite to make it to the national side in the last two years after N.P.Pradeep and Mohammed Rafi. The state of Kerala has gifted Indian football with many renowned footballers, the likes of I.M. Vijayan and V.P.Sathyan being the legends. The Prayag footballer seemed very much aware of the legacy.
"Kerala has been a talent hub for Indian football. I have idolized Vijayan et al. I know that I will have to work very hard to reach their levels. I will also get the chance to play alongside Sunil Chhetri and other noted Indian footballers. It is a great honour for me and I would like to carry the baton forward," expressed the 24-year old.
Vineeth's attraction towards football started during his school days at Vengad near Thalaserry in Kerala. But it was at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) at Kasargode where he honed his skills under coach Velayudhan which were further polished after his graduation by coach Bharathan.
He is also hopeful about the fate of his current side in the league. “We had set our vision on the title initially. But then a streak of bad matches cost us the league. Still, we want to put up a commendable performance in the coming games and try to gather as many points as possible. In my personal opinion, it will be great if we can finish second or even third.”
Nabab Bhattacharya, the Prayag official was also happy when he got the news that a number of players from his team have received the final call.
"Prayag has the most number of players selected among all the I-League sides. I have always stressed that we have many quality players at our disposal. Subrata and Gouramangi play regularly for the Indian side. But the young players, Vineeth and Asif have made my day. Lalkamal also got the deserved call-up. It won’t be a problem that so many of my first team players will be absent. They will play the match on 2nd February and leave the next day. I have done the necessary arrangements after talking to AIFF," said a clearly satisfied Nabab.
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