When Delhi Dynamos FC signed a ground-breaking technical agreement in July last year with the famous Aspire Academy in Doha, the Indian Super League (ISL) outfit was hoping to reap the benefits of the football know-how and management expertise the Qatar-based academy brings.
The state-of-the-art Aspire Academy has played host to numerous top European clubs for its training facilities ever since its foundation in 2004. It’s highly sought after residential programme will now play host to a Dynamos starlet for the next four months.
Making the trip to the Middle East will be Delhi’s most recent acquisition, Shubham Sarangi. The 17-year-old forward was signed by the national capital-based outfit at the onset of the newly introduced January transfer window of the ISL.
A Delhi native, Shubham rose to prominence when he was selected to be a part of India’s preparatory squad for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The youngster ultimately did not make the cut for Luis Norton de Matos’ final squad for the prestigious event.
Shubham could only watch from afar as his former teammates created history by becoming the first Indian side to play in any World Cup. The teenager has always dreamt about playing in Europe but when the chance came to sign for the ISL side, there was no way he could have turned it down.
“I was approached by a few European clubs before signing for Delhi Dynamos. But I took advantage of the chance I was getting over here and realised how this would benefit me in the long run as Delhi Dynamos are providing me a huge platform and exposure second to none. From here I wish to gain more experience and become a better player and wait for better offers from Europe,” he says about his move.
Missing out on the chance to play in a World Cup in front of his countrymen was always going to be painful for Shubham but he has taken that in his stride and is now looking to prove a point.
“It was disappointing for me to not be a part of the World Cup squad but I have brushed aside the past and I am now focusing only on Delhi Dynamos and my future in ISL. I wanted to be a part of the U-17 World Cup but this is part of the game and I won’t let such disappointments affect me in a negative way and instead I have only worked harder than what I did maybe three-to-four months back. I have a point to prove now,” he states with utmost confidence.
In Miguel Angel Portugal, Shubham has a coach with a high pedigree when it comes to developing the stars of tomorrow. The former Real Madrid B team coach’s possession-based brand of football is tailor-made for the young forward and he hopes to establish himself firmly in Delhi’s squad by the time the next edition of the ISL comes knocking.
On being asked about his experience so far with his new team-mates and coach, Shubham says, “It has been a good experience so far training under such a renowned coach who has worked with Real Madrid in the past and some experienced players like Pritam Kotal who plays in the Indian national team and captain Kalu Uche who has played the World Cup.
“I enjoy coach Portugal's style of play which is more possession-based. I like to distribute the ball forward and even make runs into the box which is something coach Portugal also admires about my football and I am hopeful that by next season I can become a more regular name in the Delhi Dynamos team sheet."
With a long-standing dream to play in Europe some day, Shubham does not have to look far for inspiration with Dynamos skipper Kalu Uche’s presence in the squad.
“I really admire Kalu Uche. He has played in the senior World Cup, scored two goals as well for Nigeria. He has played in big La Liga clubs and it is my dream also to play in Europe so I get to learn a lot from him while training. We have all seen his quality on the field and off it as well he is a very humble person who is kind of enough to help others in training. It’s always good to have someone of so much experience in the side,” he says beamingly.
While he has already been earmarked for a great future for the ISL side, the youngster is currently fully focused on his training stint with the Aspire Academy and hopes to use the experience to further his football development.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to go to Aspire and train there for four months. They have some of the best facilities in the world and are renowned for their coaching and training-centres. I have been working closely with coaches from Aspire who have come to Delhi Dynamos and I know the style of football that I will be taught in Qatar so I am hoping it will not be difficult for me to adjust there,” he says about his expectations from the stint.
“It's a good learning opportunity and I want to make the most of this chance because not many Indian players get a chance to spend such long time in these facilities and under the guidance of such renowned coaches,” he adds.
Only time will tell if Shubham can establish himself as a star in the future but for now, the signs are bright and the Aspire Academy stint will only increase the vast potential he has displayed until now.