ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters' Deependra Negi energized by Manjappada

Goal/Nisanth V Easwar
The 19-year-old midfielder scored on his debut for Kerala Blasters last season and hopes to contribute to a title chase this time around as well...

Young Deependra Negi has already treaded unchartered waters when he played for Segunda Division club Reus Deportiu at the U-19 level in Spain

He impressed during his trials abroad but the former India U-17 skipper seemed to want a homecoming sooner than expected.

"I was with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) academy till I was 19. Then I moved to Spain and played there for one and a half years professionally at the U-19 level. After signing my first contract, I was living alone and it was very difficult for me. So I decided that I should come back to India for a few years. Thereafter, I signed for Kerala Blasters," Negi narrated the story of his return in an exclusive chat with Goal. 

In Negi, Kerala Blasters had an exciting midfield prospect in their squad and he promptly started off his Indian Super League (ISL) career with a bang. In a 2-1 win over Delhi Dynamos, it was the 19-year-old youngster who came on as a second-half substitute and scored the equalizer. Later in the game, he was fouled inside the box to win a penalty and his team would go on to register a win. 

Deependra Negi Kerala Blasters FC Delhi Dynamos FC ISL 4 2017/2018

"Whenever we enter the stadium, the huge crowd generates a kind of excitement that players can't tell you through words. It is a different feeling to play in front of such a big crowd. When I entered the pitch, I wanted to give it all since they have been coming to every match in such huge numbers.

"We wanted to give back to them, we wanted to win every game. When I scored in the match, it was so amazing. The noise and the roar of the crowd. If you are tired and they roar for you, you automatically get more energy," the Uttarakhand-born midfielder described. 

It was an impressive debut by the young lad but he found minutes hard to come by for the rest of the season. Blasters failed to make it to the playoffs and the pressure to win cost first-team chances for Negi.

"It (getting first-team minutes) doesn't matter right now. Right now, we have to give our best in all the training sessions before every game to make sure we are picked in the eleven. That is all that matters right now, to give our all. The coach will pick who is great for the team to start," Negi isn't worried about regular playing time at the club. "We seek nothing but the title this season.  We have worked really hard. We have to win and we will win the trophy."

The youngster has a huge opportunity ahead of him, playing alongside highly skilled foreign and Indian players. 

"Everyone looks up to him (Sandesh Jhingan). Well, everyone is really amazing to me. Everyone is like a family. Courage Pekuson helps me a lot. He helps me with positional play. In my first match, when I entered, Courage just told me, 'If you do any mistake, don't worry about it. I will cover for it, you just enjoy the game', " Negi said. 

Deependra is part of a young generation of Indian footballers who aspire to make it to the very top in professional football. As an upcoming footballing nation, he believes India's youngsters can perform at the highest level.

"Are you seeing the changes? In the past, we couldn't see any young players playing in the first division of the league. Right now, there are so many young players proving their point in U-16, U-19, ISL and I-League. It's amazing, everything is changing for the good now."