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Farukh Choudhary: Raring to score his first international goal against Afghanistan

7:30 AM WAT 13/11/2019
Farukh Choudhary India Thailand King's Cup 2019
The Mumbaikar's journey to the top is riddled with rejections, grit, determination and a little bit of luck...

Failures are often regarded as the stepping stone to success. It is said that the tough get going when the going gets tough. And football is replete with such examples.

Farukh Choudhary was an ace sprinter in school. After tasting success in 100m and 200m events, he decided to try his luck in the marathon. But he failed to make the cut in the selections. A disheartened Farukh then turned his attention to football as it was the only other option that was available to him at that time. 

"I started playing as a defender in inter-house matches. But I always had an eye for goal. Then my coach asked me to play as a forward and I happily obliged," said Choudhary to Goal reminiscing his introduction to football. 

He quickly took a liking to the new sport and diverted his attention from athletics to football. Training sessions in the morning and afternoon became a part of his routine. But rejections continued to haunt the youngster. After getting selected in the preliminary trials of Mumbai FC U15, he was eventually left out of the final squad. 

This time he did not give up the sport and instead started playing in local leagues and various school tournaments to hone his skill further. He participated in the Subroto Cup and it was during this tournament that he was spotted for the first time by a professional football team. 

"We were playing our matches in Pune. So Naushad Moosa (then U19 coach of Pune FC) and Ranjan Chowdhury (then technical director at Pune FC) came for scouting. I scored a few goals and they offered me an opportunity to join their academy," reveals Farukh. 

With Pune, Farukh had a fairly successful stint as he went on to bag a silver medal in the U19 I-League. When things gradually started falling in place, he was once again staring at an abyss of uncertainty when the club shut its operations. 

"It was a difficult period. I had no club. Then Moosa bhai told me that LoneStar Kashmir was holding trials and if I could impress, then I will once again get to play football professionally." 

Farukh joined the Kashmiri outfit and scored five goals in 15 matches in I-League second division. He also played the Santosh Trophy for Jammu & Kashmir and nicked a few goals. But the forward had set his eyes on bigger goals and wanted to represent a club in the I-League. 

"It is always necessary to move forward. Playing in the second division I realized that I have to get into an I-League team. Then the Indian Super League (ISL) was played for only two-three months. So I-League was my focus. But finally luck shone on me and I was signed by Kerala Blasters." 

The 22-year old feels that joining Blasters was a turning point in his career. Although he did not get many minutes on the pitch, the training sessions under Steve Coppell were a huge learning curve. He followed the British coach to Jamshedpur after he was picked in the 11th round of the 2017–18 ISL Players Draft. Since then, he has been an indispensable part of the men of steel and his performances have taken a quantum leap with every passing season. In the current campaign, he has established himself as one of the mainstays of Antonio Iriondo's attacking setup and already has a goal and an assist to show for his efforts. 

"I learnt from my mistakes. Every training session, I make mistakes and I try not to repeat those. The playing style is pretty similar to that of last season as both coaches are Spanish. Obviously there is a difference in mentality. But it has been easier for me to adapt. I get more confidence as the coach is very supportive. He tells me to play brave football and that really helps," explains Farukh. 

After a brilliant run in the domestic league, it is time for him to replicate the form at the international stage when India will lock horns against Afghanistan and Oman in the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers. He feels that Igor Stimac's insistence on player's fitness is helping them perform better throughout the 90 minutes. More importantly, the Croatian's belief in youngsters is boosting the players' morale.

"Stimac encourages young players. He helps us understand our responsibility and that makes the job easier. We have already started practicing on an artificial pitch. Everyone is fit as the league has now started. We are training well and there's a plan to get the three points."

It won't be an easy task to score against Afghanistan away from home, especially if Anoush Dastgir's men decide to sit deep and defend. The Blue Tigers struggled to slice open a resolute Bangladesh defence and a sterner test awaits them in Dushanbe. But Farukh is not someone who will get intimidated by the magnitude of the challenge, as he is not afraid of failure.

Like gold which is purged in a furnace he believes that these matches will only help him become a better footballer. He is yet to find the net in national colours and the young lad has never been more determined.