India U-16 skipper Vikram Pratap Singh will carry the burden of scoring the goals in the AFC U16 Championship. The Chandigarh-based 16-year-old striker had led from the front during the team's exposure tours in the recent months.
He has a knack for coming up with goals when needed and ahead of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia, Vikram is shooting for the stars.
The youngster believes India can win the tournament and gain qualification for the U-17 World Cup and he is doing his best to motivate his teammates for the same.
"I keep saying that these opportunities won't come all the time. India has never qualified for the U17 World Cup (on merit). But I say we will win the AFC U-16 Championship this time and also play in the U17 World Cup. I have full confidence in my team to do that.
"Back home there are mixed opinions about us but I know that we will surely qualify (for the U17 World Cup) and become AFC (U-16) champions," Vikram told exclusively to Goal .
Vikram was scouted into the national team set up from a national school-level tournament held in Delhi two years ago. Although he has been part of the youth setup of I-League champions Minerva Punjab, the India U-16 captain credits Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) for his development.
"Minerva Punjab didn't have much of a role (in my development). I played at the Chandigarh Football Academy and learnt my game there. For Minerva, I played the U-15 I-League once. CFA played a major role in my development," he explained.
"My uncle liked football a lot. He brought me to Chandigarh from my village to play. He has a big role in my football career as he was the first one who taught me about the sport. In the trials at CFA, I did not get selected at first but I made it in the second attempt and then learnt the game over there."
Singh lauded India U-16 head coach Bibiano Fernandes' influence as the team prepares for the Asian showdown in Malaysia and said that there is no burden of pressure on him.
"I have improved a lot under him (Bibiano Fernandes). He thinks a bit differently than other Indian coaches who like to base their game on running. But we also work a lot with the ball.
"There isn't much pressure because I have full confidence in my team. It's not as if I am good and they are not, all of us are equal and we know we can qualify (for the U17 World Cup) easily if we keep on playing at the level that we do. No pressure as everyone in my team is like me."
India's performance at the AFC U-16 Championship will help determine the level these players are at. Vikram is an ambitious lad and has set his sights on progress through hard work.
"Football is getting better in the country and when we get to the senior team, we will qualify for the World Cup and this time too (2019 U17 World Cup)."
India will face Vietnam on September 21 to kick-start their AFC U-16 campaign in Malaysia.