FC Pune City's Ashique Kuruniyan is one of the young stars of the 2017-18 Indian Super League season. Coach Ranko Popovic talked him up as a player with a good future and despite his injury woes, the youngster has managed to leave a lasting impression by the end of the season.
At just 20 years old, Ashique is touted to be the next football star from Kerala and despite playing for Pune City, the support for the Malappuram-born talent was on show when his team came visiting Kochi for their ISL match against Kerala Blasters earlier this year.
After the season came to a close, Ashique has been taking part in Sevens football tournaments in Kerala and that had drawn criticism from several sections of football lovers. Playing Sevens football is not the same as playing a normal game of football but for Ashique Kuruniyan, it is a case of being in debt.
Speaking to Goal, the youngster said, "It is through Sevens matches that I started playing football. It is some of the managers here in Sevens football who helped me pursue my footballing career. So when they ask me to play matches for them, I cannot say no."
The reaction to Ashique's decision to participate in Sevens tournaments has been mixed but the consensus has been that it is a risky move. Experienced centre-back Anas Edathodika, midfielder Zakeer Mundampara and Usman Ashik are a few others who have also taken this route in the off-season.
"I don't know what to say about the comments against it. I don't have anything to say about that. The reason for me playing Sevens football is indebtedness to those who helped my career.
"I am someone who started off with Sevens football and I liked playing it. It was interesting to play in front of such packed crowd," said the FC Pune City winger.
The main criticism has been that players are much more prone to injuries during sevens football games and that it can take a toll on their body.
"With regards to injuries, a decision should be taken by the Sevens football association on refereeing. The refereeing should improve. If refereeing is of the standards of normal 11 vs 11 matches, there will be a lot more junior players coming up through sevens football," opined Ashique.
"Injuries are a risk. But it can happen anywhere. Even when I am running through the fields in my hometown, I can pick up injuries."