16 years, 6 months and 13 days old defender Jitendra Singh became the youngest goalscorer in the NFL/I-League when he scored for AIFF’s developmental team Indian Arrows against Shillong Lajong FC in their I-League match a day after Christmas, a match which the Arrows eventually won 3-0.
Life hasn’t been the same for the sturdy defender since the FIFA U-17 World Cup and moments in the I-League has provided Jitendra with ‘impeccable memories’, which he shares in an exclusive interview with AIFF Media.
How does it feel to be the youngest goalscorer in the I-League?
Am I the youngest? I am not aware of that (smiles).
It is every player’s dream to score a goal. I was just in the right place to slot the ball home (against Shillong Lajong FC) and I did not even think about being the youngest goalscorer at that moment as I was doing my duty for the team.
It feels special to have my name in the record books but I am focused on my job which is to defend and contribute. Goals for defenders are rare and I am happy that I was able to score my first.
How has life been in the I-League?
The I-League has been very challenging as it is football of the next level when we play against some of the best club teams of the Country. Given the potential of players on the pitch, anything can happen at any given time and we need to be constantly on our toes and stay focused. Life has been tough in the I-League but as they say – when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
Is it hard defending against physically stronger opponents?
Defending against physical opponents is tough but that seldom enters my brain when I am on the pitch. It rarely affects me because when we step out in the arena the only goal is to give our all.
What has been the importance of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in your career?
We faced tough sides in USA, Colombia and Ghana and that helped in my progression as a defender. As a team, we developed more chemistry and more bonding with each other. The FIFA World Cup was a dream come true for me personally and I revere every second spent on the pitch in the mega event.
How helpful was it?
We learnt from our mistakes in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and we learnt how not to commit the mistake twice and that has helped us in our transition in the I-League. We try to learn every day in training and try to be the best version of ourselves when we play in the I-League.