The I-League Qualifier 2020 which is set to be the first sporting event to be held in India after the COVID-19-induced lockdown is all set to see an array of experienced and young players take to the pitch as footballing action returns to the country.
One player who is himself a mix of youth and experience is Garhwal FC winger Saikhom Ronald Singh.
Based out of New Delhi, Garhwal FC will be looking to become the second team from the Capital city to make it to the I-League. Ronald feels that the impact of such a move would be enormous for football in the Capital.
“Delhi has had a glorious past in football. Now with Sudeva already in the I-League, that will benefit the local players and fans greatly. If we also manage to gain promotion, then that effect will be doubled,” said Ronald. “Just imagine – from having no clubs in the league to having two – it would be brilliant for Delhi football.”
The 23-year-old, who has already won a Santosh Trophy title with West Bengal, and has since gone on to play in the Second Division League (Minerva Punjab FC), I-League (NEROCA FC) and ISL (ATK).
“I was basically sitting at home and training, and watching football restarting in Europe. But when I heard that football was starting again in India with the I-League Qualifiers, I could not stay away,” Ronald said.
The youngster lauded the organisers for setting all the precautionary measures in order to start the 2020-21 season in time.
“This is very good for the players. We have been away from the pitch for so long, but it feels great to be back now,” said Ronald. “The organisers have done a fantastic job to get the sport up and starting in this environment. Operationally, it would not have been easy to get this done at this juncture.”
While most of the players have had a difficult time while spending the first four days in isolation in their hotel rooms, that has not been the case with Ronald.
“Those four days went by like a flash for me. I always kept busy. We were either training together on zoom, or meditating, or doing yoga,” said Ronald. “I never felt bored, since we had two sessions a day, and that took up our time.”
A FAMILY OF BRAZIL FANS
Ronald hails from a family that loves sports through and through. His father, who owns a grocery shop now used to play football on the local level in his younger days. However, such was his love for football, and indeed a certain FIFA World Cup (2002) winning team, that he named his two sons after two of the most recognisable players from that famous Brazilian squad.
While Ronald derives his name from 2002 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner Ronaldo Nazario de Lima, his younger (Rivaldo) brother derives his from Rivaldo Vitor Borba Ferreira, who was Ronaldo’s partner in crime for the Selecao.
“My father was a big fan of Brazil back in those days. I remember just a few glimpses of watching that World Cup with him, and how excited he was at seeing Brazil play the way they did,” said Ronald. “He is a very big fan of both Ronaldo and Rivaldo.”
Growing up in the Saikhom household, both Ronald and Rivaldo were encouraged to take up sports. However, somewhere down the line, the two brothers parted ways with regards to the sport they wanted to pursue.
His brother Rivaldo, however, traded the football boots that his father and brother had taken up, for a pair of boxing gloves. In fact, the 19-year-old Saikhom Rivaldo Singh has already gone on to win the Manipur State Championship in the 48kg category in 2014.