In Conversation with Rodhsi Singhal
1. Could you give us a little background about your time as a football player?
First of all, it’s an absolute honour to be called a ‘Football player’ after giving almost a decade of hard work and time to the sport, irrespective of the level one may have played at.
Coming back to the question, I had played football for my school team since grade 4 back to back right up till the 12th standard. I have been a defender (almost always the right back) so goal scoring hasn’t been the top priority, though I still have a few to recall. Never missed a single penalty in my entire school team career.
Have played and won various tournaments in the city, ZP, Reliance, Bishop’s Invitational, VIBGYOR high, Nagarwala, Subroto Cup to name a few. Personal awards being best defender, player of the match, player of the tournament.
Played in the Under-19 category when my peers were playing under-16 because my defense services were much needed by the senior team coach. This is one thing I always end up boasting about!
After finishing school, I have been playing forward and am also preparing to play as winger or CF (centre forward) in the coming future for the college team.
2. How did you get into football and what helped you stay consistent with it?
I remember the day my football journey officially started. I was in class 4 when our sports teacher (who was extremely terrifying to us kids back then) entered the classroom asking only those students to raise their hands who were taking training in any football academy, after a quick internal debate with myself and with a lot of fear and hesitation in my mind, I raised my hand though in reality I wasn’t training in any football academy. When the teacher did walk up to me asking the name of my academy, very timidly I answered, “Sir I am not training in any academy, however I play in my society with elder ‘bhaiyas’ and I’m really good at my game.” He replied,”Be on the practice field at 6 am tomorrow, dont be late.” I guess it was the eagerness in my eyes that got to him. This is from where it all started, that one act of courage, and a quick decision was all it took.
Speaking of consistency, love for the game largely, on a side note playing for the school football team and the massive respect I earned through it was basically what kept me going all these years, not to forget the fact that you could always show up late to class and bunk a few lectures in the name of football, these were the perks students could kill for!
3. How much of your identity revolves around your sport?
MASSIVELY, a major part of my identity revolves around football. There was a time when younger students came walking up to me asking about my game. Made a lot of friends playing football all over town, at school, and on the football field close to home. Being so heavily involved with football makes me good at it and that fuels a lot of confidence in myself. Since aggression is a major personality trait in defenders, it has definitely made me feel fearless in physically demanding situations.
4. Which team or player had the greatest influence on you?
Messi, Messi from the start. Was a huge fan of Messi throughout my childhood, always watched El Clasico (the match between the Spanish supergiants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona) with friends, and cried when he couldn’t bring the World Cup back home (Argentina, the country Messi plays for, lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.) Celebrated his wins like they were mine. Never took part in any useless ‘Messi vs Ronaldo’ debates, always respected Cristiano as well. Though in recent years, my admiration for Ronaldo has become the same as it is for Messi. Although, Messi resides in my heart and my own playing style is quite similar to his. However before every school team match, I used to refer to the all time defending greats like Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol.
5. What lesson from playing football has proven to be helpful in your day-to-day
Patience is key, perseverance equals success, discipline is the absolute backbone of football, and practice makes perfect, it really does. Even today I feel discouraged sometimes if I don’t play well and am having a bad spell for no good reason, and there are times I’ve felt that I’m done with football and should probably reduce my weekly playing hours (especially after the lockdowns) but not giving up in these moments is the real game. Because after a few days of continuous games, I get back in form and feel truly victorious!
6. How did/do you view your role in the team?
Crucial. As important as every single player and their contribution is to the sport, so is mine. I did give myself an extra role though. I always kept encouraging everyone, whether it was the pre-game pep talk, or consoling the players after a loss, I was the one doing it, even more than the coach. Because a good mindset is imperative to play well and above all, enjoy the game. It is my top priority always to make sure my team is in the right frame of mind at all times, each and every single player.
Small example, one time a fellow player (right winger) was getting criticised by the entire team for being selfish and not passing the ball.I noticed him feeling miserable and just politely suggested a minor tweak, also sharing a few words of encouragement with him. From the very next match onwards, he was the player with the highest number of assists.
7. Having played the sport for recreation, what is it about your mindset that
changes when you play to compete? What doesn’t change?
What doesn’t change is that every single time I play, winning is my top priority.
What does change is my reaction to defeat, while playing recreationally, I don’t let the losses/defeats bother me too much, but in any kind of official game, the defeat gets to me for a bit. Next day, I practice harder.
When competing, I am all in, ready to get injured or anything on the field, it’s a battlefield for me, straight out war. This mentality definitely changes when I’m not competing, I’m more relaxed and careful, very calm and accepting.
-Interviewed by the 8:10 Sports Section