GUWAHATI, Sept 1 - Vinit Rai may be a popular name in the national football scene today, however, it hasn�t been an easy journey for the lad from Assam.
With the FIFA World Cup qualifiers kicking off in Guwahati on September 5 against Oman, the midfielder is quite optimistic regarding the team�s chances. In an interview with The Assam Tribune, the midfielder speaks about various aspects surrounding the game as well as his journey so far.
Excerpts from the interview:
The Assam Tribune (AT): What do you have to say regarding the inaugural match of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Oman?
Vinit Rai (VR): The whole team is looking forward to playing our first match of the qualifiers against Oman. I remember when we faced them in 2015 in Bengaluru, where we gave them a tough fight. Prior to the AFC Asian Cup 2019, we played a draw against them in a friendly match as well, which is positive as far as our record with them is concerned.
AT: What do you have to say regarding Guwahati as a venue?
VR: The national team has had a good record in Guwahati and the city has never left us empty-handed. Hopefully, we shall be able to continue the positive run. It has been a tough time for people owing to floods in Assam recently and we will give our all to make amends for the pain they have suffered.
AT: Tell us about your journey so far.
VR: I started playing football when I was seven. My father was my first coach and used to take me for training and even when I go home for holidays now, I train with him. It has been a tough journey � all the way from school, to district, to State. Then I joined the Tata Football Academy in 2010. In 2014, I signed my first professional contract with Dempo SC and spent two years there. After that, I signed for Kerala Blasters and played for them for one year. Then, I went to Minerva and after that, I signed a three-year contract with Delhi Dynamos in 2017 and have been with them since. Between all these, I have played for the national team at U-19 and U-23 level, and then also made my senior team debut.
AT: What do you have to say regarding the potential in Assam?
VR: When I go home and train with the local players or watch any local games, I can see that there are a lot of talented players � not just in Assam but the entire Northeast. Many more players can come out from these areas and turn professional. There are a lot of talented players in Assam. To turn professional, they just have to take that one leap of faith and dare to go outside the State and play professionally.
AT: Institutional teams offering jobs is a common thing in Assam. What do you have to say regarding players opting for jobs rather than turn professional?
VR: Job offers are not stopping any players from stepping out. The institutional teams are doing what they have to do and allow the player to settle himself and his family, so it�s not a bad thing at all. At the end of the day, we play to look after our family. I always had a dream to play professionally and took that one step early in my career.
AT: Tell us about the family support.
VR: I�m very fortunate that I have got a family who really supports me in my football career. I had never thought that I�ll be a professional player from the start but it was my father�s efforts � he used to train me regularly � that made me the player I am. I am thankful to God for my parents and my whole family, who really support me and accept me for what I am. Not every player has this kind of support and I count myself lucky that I have had their support right from the start. My grandfather was a footballer as well and my dad was an athlete who also played a little bit of football. I want to thank them for all their support and affection.