Tri-nation football: Mehtab, Mahesh, Ritwik fulfill dream of playing for India

Imphal, Mar 24 (IANS): Putting on the national team jersey for the first time and walking out onto a pitch surrounded by fans cheering them on is a dream that most kids nurse at some point and it became a reality for Mehtab Singh, Naorem Mahesh Singh and Ritwik Kumar Das, when they took the field during India's match against Myanmar in the opening game of the Tri-nation international football tournament.

On Wednesday, Mehtab, Mahesh and Ritwik were added to the elite list of players who have represented the Indian football team. The three have impressed with their performances, both in domestic football, and in the camp with the national team, and have finally earned the right of passage.

Centre-back Mehtab Singh was given the unenviable role of protecting the Indian goal, as he started for the Blue Tigers, alongside Chinglensana Singh, and proceeded to keep a clean sheet.

"I really enjoyed my debut. We won the match, and even managed to keep a clean sheet. As a defender, that's something special, maybe as good as getting a goal. I've been dreaming about this moment since I was a kid," Mehtab told

The young defender, who hails from a family of farmers in Punjab, felt that the 1-0 win, was in a way, bigger for him than scoring a goal.

"As a defender, it becomes a responsibility to not let the opposition sniff a goal, and to be a platform for the rest of the team to launch forward from," he said.

Hometown boy Naorem Mahesh Singh had the rare fortune of playing his debut in front of his family and friends.

"I don't think I have any words to describe the feeling that I had when the coach told me to get ready and come on as a substitute. This is my hometown, and I had the opportunity to bring my family to watch me play my first game as well," said the forward.

"It was too special for me, this moment, and I will cherish this for the rest of my life," he said.

Meanwhile, Ritwik Das's dream of debuting for India was cruelly snatched away from under his feet last year, when, despite being called up to the National camp, the winger had to go back home as he contracted chicken pox.

A year later, the 26-year-old is back in full flow and has rightly made his way into the coveted blue jersey.

"It was a huge disappointment to come all the way to a National camp last year and just go back because I got ill. When you work so hard for something for such a long time, and then have it suddenly snatched from you for no fault of your own, it is really difficult to take it in your stride," said Ritwik.

"Recovering tough mentally. But it was a good learning process for me as well. One has to learn how to take such setbacks into their stride," he added.



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Title: Tri-nation football: Mehtab, Mahesh, Ritwik fulfill dream of playing for India

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