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Gokulam Kerala's Arjun Jayaraj - Kerala players aren't getting enough chances

12:59 pm AEST 20/7/18
Arjun Jayaraj Gokulam Kerala
Gokulam Kerala midfielder Arjun Jayaraj is hoping to impress Stephen Constantine at the national team camp ahead of SAFF Championship...

Gokulam Kerala's breakout star from their inaugural season in I-League has earned a call-up to the national team camp to be held from July 28. 

After churning out splendid displays for the Malabarians, the 22-year-old midfielder is hoping to impress Indian national team head coach Stephen Constantine ahead of the SAFF Championship. For Arjun, that could be a dream-come-true moment.

"I managed to do well in the I-League last season. Based on that, I got a call-up to the national team camp. To play for one's nation is every player's dream. My dream is to play for India. I have been working hard since I was a kid," Arjun Jayaraj told Goal

The Malappuram-born youngster clocked more than 1000 minutes spanned across 15 appearances for Gokulam Kerala in the league last season. Although he was undecided between choosing a new destination from the multiple offers at his disposal and staying at Gokulam Kerala when he spoke to Goal in March, Jayaraj has since then made a firm decision on his future. 

"I will definitely stay at Gokulam Kerala this season. I am thankful to them for giving me an opportunity to play in the I-League. Even if I move to an ISL club, the first team chances are going to be limited. 

"At Gokulam, the club is managed by Keralites. The players are also people I know. I thought it will be better to stay at Gokulam Kerala in order to improve. It is a different feeling to play in front of your home crowd," explained Arjun. 

Arjun Jayaraj is a product of the famed MSP sports hostel which has produced several outstanding talents from the district of Malappuram. Another graduate of the MSP academy, 21-year-old FC Pune City forward Ashique Kuriniyan, is also a part of the national team squad. 

"I wouldn't have reached this stage in my career if I had not been part of the Malabar Special Police (MSP) sports hostel. It was at MSP that I decided that football is going to be my career," began Arjun who rued the lack of opportunities for Kerala-born footballers in the state. 

"There are a lot of players in Kerala who have the talent to play for India but they aren't getting enough chances to show their talent. If they get enough chances, there will be more Keralites in the national team, like how it was during the era of IM Vijayan."

With Arjun Jayaraj's brilliant solo goal from last season still etched in the memories of fans, the youngster is all set to continue his development at the Kozhikode-based club under new head coach Fernando Valera.

"I was down with fever during the Kerala Premier League (KPL) so I haven't had a chance to get to know the new coach. Players have to adapt to how their coach wants them to play. The methods of the new coach will be different and to do that is my target and I will try to follow his instructions and tactics."