From University team to Indian National Team - Davinder Singh is a proud Punjabi living his dream

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The 21-year-old right back chose to not give up and instead pursued his dream. And that made all the difference.

There are a lot of university-based football teams in India featuring good footballers. Many of those players would have, at different times during their short sporting careers, wished to represent their country and don the national team jersey. Every time such thoughts come up, most players at the University level either laugh it off and go back to their monotonous routine or give up their dream way before it has even started. A certain 21-year-old Punjabi University player Davinder Singh, however, had other ideas.

Aged 21, Davinder Singh from Patiala is not your average undergrad who plays football after college hours. Sure, he is pursuing B.A from Punjabi University but he is also going to be playing for the Indian National football team in a few weeks' time. Davinder's journey towards the Constantine-led Indian team has been truly awe-inspiring.

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Davinder started his career as a defender and he has had the knack for keeping wingers under control ever since his primary days at Dalbir Football Academy in Patiala. He joined the academy when he was in his eighth grade and eventually went on to play for their U-16 team. 

A few years later, Davinder was roped into his University's football team. Punjabi University's football teams have always done well in inter-state tournaments so getting into the team was the first step of many in Davinder's climb towards top level football. He joined them in 2013 when he was in 12th grade and represented them for three years.

The transition from University level football to the Indian national team is not easy and it is indicated by the fact that Davinder is the only player after Abhishek Yadav and Eugeneson Lyngdoh to jump levels from University football to the senior national team. In fact, it is the watchful eyes of the current AIFF Scouting Director Abhishek Yadav that picked up Davinder's skill set very early, leading to the inclusion of the player in the Indian squad.

Davinder Singh

I-League club Minerva Punjab was on hand to help him out by providing the platform to train and play for the side and his journey hasn't failed to catch the eye of team owner Ranjit Bajaj.

"He (Davinder) is very tough. We saw that some of the tackles he made when he was playing for India U-23 were superb. He has got all the basics right. His performances were all down to how badly he wanted it. I have never seen him play better than when he played for India and that is a great sign. They were other good players on that team but he made sure he got selected and that is also important," Bajaj said. 

The national team call-up was made possible by his performances for the India U-23 team, also coached by Stephen Constantine.

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Earlier this year, he got called up from the Punjabi University team for the final selection-cum-preparatory camp in Mumbai for the AFC U-23 Qualifiers under Constantine. The coach was impressed with the player and had no second thoughts about drafting him into the senior men's national team.

Coaches love a physically strong defender and that is exactly what Davinder Singh is to any team. He has always played as a right-back throughout his football career and with a few more years of experience under his belt, he can be even better at tirelessly running up and down the right flank.

Punjab has managed to contribute talents like  Manvir Singh, Germanpreet Singh and Sandesh Jhingan in recent years and can now add Davinder Singh to that gleaming list.

It is, after all, the hard work and the never-give-up attitude of any player that determines the height he manages to reach, be it in his career or life. Davinder has shown both these characteristics and does not step back on the field and isn’t afraid of being aggressive.

This was on show at the AFC U-23 Qualifiers in Qatar where Davinder showed remarkable mental strength during games while also learning quite a lot from the coach. Stephen Constantine is a great coach for youngsters. His analysis of their performances are usually spot-on and to-the-point. With him, the constructive criticism is always followed by advice on how to improve.

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Minerva Punjab has played its part well in Davinder's journey. The club has been able to identify and provide opportunities to youngsters like Davinder who was picked up from the Dalbir football academy in Patiala. 

"We picked up two boys from Dalbir football academy in Patiala for second division campaign-  Davinder and Santosh" Bajaj revealed. "Unfortunately, just before the second division was about to start, he [Davinder] got injured.

"He kept on practising with us and then he was okay and played and we really liked it. And then he went back to play Santosh Trophy for Punjab and he came back. He has been with us since the very beginning. Whenever he's nearby, he trains with us."

But the credit must also go to an open-minded approach from the AIFF which saw them scouting for promising talents in University tournaments and building an excellent framework to ensure quality supply of talent to the senior men's national team.

Presenting opportunities are one thing but grabbing them with both hands is another. Davinder Singh has managed to do the latter. Now he needs to hold on. 

Follow Nisanth V Easwar on  Twitter - @niktheblue94

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