Two NRIs Named in Indian Squad for FIFA U-17 World Cup
As a part of strengthening their side ahead of the U-17 Football World Cup, which will begin on Oct. 6 in India, the hosts have included two Non-resident Indian footballers in their final 21-member squad.
Namit Deshpande, the defender who migrated to the United States when he was six years, and Sunny Dhaliwal, the talented goalkeeper from Canada, have been included in the list drawn by India’s Portuguese coach, Luis Norton De Matos.
NRIs in Indian Team for First Time
Namit Deshpande is expected to play the opening match of India against the United States, which will make him the first NRI to play for the national side.
Dhaliwal’s inclusion in the 21-member squad drew a lot of criticism, as Matos had the liberty of choosing three top performing goalkeepers, Dheeraj Singh, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill and Mohammad Nawaz. However, the Portuguese coach picked Dhaliwal ahead of Nawaz. But the chances of Dhaliwal getting included in the playing eleven are pretty low, as Matos may give more preference to Dheeraj Singh considering his recent form.
The inclusion of NRIs in the Indian team is the result of the All India Football Federation’s initiative of starting an overseas scouting project, which picks players from foreign countries who are eligible to play for India at any level.
Deshpande, who hails from New Jersey, has played with many players who will wear the boots for the United States in the U-17 World Cup. His overseas exposure and brilliant defending skills are expected to work in favor of the Indian team as they play their opening match against the mighty United States.
Golden Chance for Indian Football
Experts believe that this is an opportunity for Indian football to get revived and to come out of the shadows posed by cricket in the country. Being the first FIFA tournament hosted in the country, record viewership is expected for all the games in this tournament.
After playing the opening Pool A match against the United States on Oct. 6, India will lock horns with Colombia and Ghana at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Oct. 9 and 12, respectively.
“We believe that we are prepared for the FIFA U-17 World Cup,” Matos told CNN-News 18. “We have worked hard and made progress, but at the same time we go directly to a high level competition against some of the best teams in the world.”
The coach added that the team will fight to win each match even if there is only five percent chance of winning. “We will not give up and nothing is impossible in football,” he said. “We plan to show the world that we are on the same page as them.”