Narender Gahlot is among the finest young defenders in Indian football at the moment. The young centre-back was an integral part of Floyd Pinto’s Indian Arrows side in the 2018-19 season of the I-League.
The young boy who grew up playing cricket took up football as a serious sport much later. Belonging to a family which encourages sports, Gahlot’s uncle inspired him to pursue a career in football.
Speaking to Goal about his inclination towards sports, Narender said, “I used to play cricket earlier. My uncle used to play cricket and he was a sports fanatic. So he wanted me to play a sport. Then after some time I grew an interest in football and started playing. My uncle was my biggest support and inspiration.”
The youngster informed that he used to play as a midfielder initially and idolised Indian football icon Bhaichung Bhutia but later on taking advice from a local coach, he decided to change his position.
“I was a very big fan of Bhaichung Bhutia as a child. I used to play in midfield but later one of our local coaches asked me if I could play as a defender and I agreed to change my position. Among international players, I am a big fan of Sergio Ramos,” said Narender.
The Indian Arrows star joined the Chandigarh Football Academy at age of 15 before moving to Sports Authority of India (SAI) Dehradun. It was during his stay at SAI that he caught the attention of then India U16 coach Nicolai Adam.
“With SAI I had played against the India U16 team at that time which was coached by Nicolai Adams. After that match, I got a call from the India U16 side.
“Unfortunately I could not take part in the U17 World Cup as I was injured. I suffered an ACL injury a few months prior to the World Cup when we were in Brazil.
“After the World Cup Abhishek (Yadav) Sir told me that they are making a team (Indian Arrows) and then he had called me for trails there. Luis Norton de Matos liked me and kept me in the side,” said the 18-year-old player on his journey so far.
The youngster was all praise for current Indian Arrows boss Floyd Pinto and his assistant Mahesh Gawli. He explained how both the coaches helped all the Arrows players to further develop their skills.
He said, “Floyd Pinto is a very good coach who keeps on motivating us. He guides us to keep ball possession and tells us not to play too many long balls. During pre-season I played a couple of games and then he liked my performance and started giving me regular starts. I can play as a full-back as well as a centre-back.
“Mahesh Gawli also helped us a lot. He used to pinpoint minute details and guided us. I got to learn a lot from such a legendary defender.”
The central defender who was a part of the India U23 side in recently concluded AFC U23 Championship, hope to get a call from Igor Stimac in the senior national team in the near future.
Narender said, “Now that I have played for the U23 side I hope I will make it to the senior side very soon. We have a new coach now and he (Igor Stimac) is a big coach. And it will be a great opportunity for me to play under him.”