Comparisons with Lionel Messi have been flowing in since wonder kid Nongdamba Naorem scored that magical goal for AIFF developmental Team Indian Arrows in the Hero I-League match against a strong Shillong Lajong FC.
“He is one of my idols,” he quips in a chat, refusing to get into any comparison. In a freewheeling interview, Naorem speaks at length about the ‘Messi-like’ goal, life in the Hero I-League, the technicalities learnt in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and a lot more. EXCERPTS:
Your goal against Shillong Lajong was very ‘Messi- like.’
Lionel Messi is one of my idols. I can only dream to be like him. The movement for the goal just came naturally to me and it was all split-second decisions which led me straight on to the goal. Had I made one decision wrong it would have been different. It was just one of those moments where I did everything right.
People have started comparing you with Lionel Messi.
Can there be any comparison? Every Footballer dreams about him. It is just a motivation for me to do better. It’s not my goal, it’s the goal for my team, the Arrows.
Indian Arrows are the youngest team in the Hero I-League. How has it been when playing older opponents?
One of the elements learnt from the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 was to deal with physically stronger opponents. That has helped us immensely in the Hero I-League. Yes, we are the youngest team but that also means that we can be the swiftest and the quickest. The experience of playing in a FIFA World Cup was immense as we can handle pressure a lot better now.
How challenging is it playing against professional players?
There are a lot of tussle and tackles and physical manipulations when we play against physically strong opponents. But all of that is a part of football. We learn from each match and every opponent. Playing in the Hero I-League is a dream come true for all of us. I need to thank AIFF for providing us the platform for us to mature into better players.
What is like playing in the Hero I-League?
Playing in the Hero I-League means we are under constant pressure from the best teams in India. It also means the opponents will try to close you down quickly.
How important has the FIFA U-17 World Cup been in your development?
The FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 unlocked a different part. It taught me to give my hundred percent on the pitch even while being under pressure. It made me understand, or rather all of us understand that anything is possible when you stay committed as a team. It evolved me into a much better player on and off the pitch.
AIFF Press Release