The Indian Arrows left-back is ready to scale any height to shine like his idol Roberto Carlos…
Sajad Hussain Parray hails from Gund Hassi Bhat, a hamlet on the outskirts of Srinagar. Although Kashmir has produced quite a few footballers and coaches over the decades, this has remained one of the football blindspots of the state.
Hence, when Sajad appeared for the trials of Sports Council Football Academy in Srinagar, Sajid Dar was pleasantly surprised.
“That place has not produced any footballer till now. Actually, there has been no real football culture in that area,” stated Dar, the honorary technical director of the Sports Council academy.
It was on the streets of Gund Hassi Bhat that Sajad had his first tryst with football along with his two brothers Ajaz and Adil Hussain. When the Sports Council started holding trials under ‘Mission 22’, Sajad wanted to try his luck.
“When he got selected in the trials we asked him about his favourite position. He promptly replied left-back. It is not common for a kid to be so sure about his exact position, but he was. And you do not get left-backs that often. So he excited us,” revealed Dar.
He started as a U15 cadet but soon started to outshine his peers. Mehrajuddin Wadoo, the academy in-charge, decided to promote him to U18. But apart from his qualities with the ball, what impressed Wadoo was the kid’s determination and sincerity.
“Since he lives far away from Srinagar, almost 10-12 km, he has to travel a lot. But I never remember that he was late for a session. Neither did he miss one. He is so punctual,” said the former India international heaping praise on the youngster.
Whereas Dar went a step ahead and said, “After Mehraj, he is the most dedicated boy I have seen. He wasn’t that good technically when he joined the academy. But with hard work, he has covered a lot of ground.”
Sajad is a natural left-footer and to push his limits, Wadoo, who was himself a defender, deployed him as left centre-back as well.
“Since he knew what he wanted to do, we played him as a defender throughout. But sometimes he would play as a centre back as well. He is a very good game reader. He doesn’t go in for unnecessary tackles and remains firmly footed during one-on-one situations.”
When AIFF (All India Football Federation) held trials in Srinagar, Sajad was selected for the India U-15 junior national team in 2018, and then he went to Bhubaneswar to join the Arrows set up.
In the ongoing I-League, he has started four out of the five matches Arrows ave played and has made the left-back position his own. In fact, it was through his header in injury time against Aizawl that Shanmugam Venkatesh’s boys earned their first point of the campaign.
“Yeh kuch karega agey jaake (He will do something ahead in life). He has that hunger in him,” feels Wadoo.
Sajad has played in U15 SAFF Championship in Nepal and has also travelled to UAE, South Africa as part of the exposure trips arranged by AIFF. He idolises Roberto Carlos and wants to emulate the Brazilian legend. He has chosen the ideal footprints to follow and has even started off his professional career on a bright note.
But there are a million miles between the cup and the lip, and it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his perseverance to shine at bigger stages.