Stephen Constantine has turned towards youth for the upcoming South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship with several youngsters comprising the upcoming 34-man preparatory camp to be held in Delhi.
One of those names is that of Davinder Singh, the right-back who has been plying his trade with Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL).
The 22-year-old rose to fame when he jumped straight from the Punjab University football team to the India U-23 squad which was then helmed by Constantine himself.
His rise in Indian football has been nothing short of meteoric and very few can claim to have enjoyed a similar developmental path. So impressed was Constantine by the talents of the young right-back that he had no hesitation in giving him his maiden senior Indian team call-up in the Tri-nations Cup last year at Mumbai.
It should, therefore, be no surprise that he has been called up for the SAFF Championship preparatory camp but it has still come as one for Davinder in his own words.
“I wasn’t really expecting the call-up so I am pleasantly surprised. It is always a good feeling to get called up to the Indian team,” he said in a chat with Goal.
Davinder’s first season in the top flight of Indian football saw him make eight appearances for Alexandre Guimaraes’ men. The Ludhiana-born defender is completely satisfied with his maiden ISL stint and is thankful to Guimaraes for his trust.
“I was really satisfied with my first season with Mumbai City. It was my first stint in the ISL and I got a decent amount of matches under my belt. I think my performances were also up to the mark,” the youngster stated.
“The coach trusted me enough to give me eight appearances which were more than I expected in my first season with Mumbai. I entered the season on the back of the long-term injury layoff as well so I really wasn’t expecting to feature as much as I did in the season,” he added.
Now, the Punjab man is ready to give his best shot should he make the final cut for the SAFF Championship squad.
“I just want to make sure I give my 100 per cent and leave nothing behind. Winning the SAFF Championship would be sweet as well,” he quipped.
Despite being eager to impress, Davinder is not looking too far ahead when it comes to his dreams of becoming a permanent member of the India senior team.
“What is under my control, I will surely do. Rest is on the coach if he likes what he sees,” he said.
Instead, his focus remains on cementing his place with Mumbai City in the upcoming ISL season.
“My aim for the upcoming season is to get as many matches as I can for Mumbai. I want to keep continuing with my hard work and always want to give 100 per cent on the pitch. I am not thinking about anything else. All I want to do is perform for Mumbai since they were the ones who took a gamble on me and signed me for the ISL,” Davinder explained.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for the right-back at the start of his Mumbai stint. However, he has nothing but praise for the way the franchise has helped him grow in confidence over the course of the last season.
“It has been a great experience moving to Mumbai. There is a family atmosphere at the club and everyone in the team treats you like a younger brother. At the club, be it the manager, coaches or players are equal and that is a nice. I am lucky to have Sehnaj (Singh) paaji (elder brother) who is from Amritsar to guide me. All the players have helped me settle in quickly at the club,” said the right-back.
Looking back at this first game in the ISL, Davinder said: “I still remember my ISL debut. It was against Kerala Blasters away from home and you know the kind of support they have. So the atmosphere was a little intimidating and I was very nervous.
“But the senior players helped me calm down and redirect my focus. I went on to get the emerging player of the match award in the end which was very pleasing. As the season progressed, my confidence levels also started increasing.”
The nerves are now long gone for Davinder who is among the brightest talents in the country in his age-group. He is the latest product to emerge from Punjab’s football factory which has been churning out talent for the country in droves in recent times. The recent spurt in Punjab’s football landscape is one that is exciting the defender.
“Punjab has produced many quality players over the last few years and it is an exciting phase. You have the likes of Balwant paaji, Sehnaj paaji, Anwar (Ali) paaji and Gurpreet Singh. So it is heartening to see the development of football in Punjab. It was great to see Minerva Punjab win the I-League title last year as well,” he remarked.
While he might not be looking to far ahead, Davinder could soon follow in the footsteps of the mentioned names by becoming an India regular in the future. For that to happen, the SAFF Championship might just be the platform Davinder needs.