The small-town boy with big time dreams

For Someone Whose Childhood Has Been Spent Away From Family, Shivasakthi Has The Kind Of Dogged Determination That Big Dreams Need To Be Built On. We Sat Down With The Boy Who Has Led The Line For The Blue Colts This Season…

If you’re ever by the Bengaluru Football Stadium when the Blue Colts are in action, one name you’re most likely to hear even from the road that guides you past the Blues’ old stomping ground, is ‘Shiva’. There are rarely any instructions that accompany – just shouts of ‘Shiva!’ followed by gestures. It’s all the youngster needs to go on about his business on the pitch.

Shivasakthi is the 19-year-old leading the line for BFC B in the BDFA Super Division League this season. He may come across as a reserved, silent boy off the pitch, but his demeanour changes completely when he crosses over the white line. “He looks lanky and you would think he gets pushed off the ball a lot, but Shiva has the kind of core strength that gets him past even the heaviest challenges. What’s more important is that he has the raw talent, drive and desire to match that,” says BFC ‘B’ Head Coach Sandesh Bhoite.

Hailing from Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu, Shiva took to football early in his life. By his own admission, there was little chance he wouldn’t play the sport growing up. “Karaikudi is football crazy and I have always loved the sport. When I was in the seventh standard, there was a tournament during Deepavali, and we heard an announcement about trials. My brother and I went, got selected to be a part of one of the local teams and that’s where my journey started.”

For Shivasakthi, football has been everything from the very beginning. The striker admits that moving to Bengaluru is among the best things to have happened to him so far. “I’m very happy to be here. In fact, when my friends and I picked teams to follow in the Indian Super League, Bengaluru FC was my team. I was a fan earlier, and now I’m proud to be a youth-team player at this club.”

Apart from football, the only other constant in his life is daily conversation with his mother. “I speak with her every day. I call my mother the day before a game and also on my way to the ground. After the match, I am on a call with her again to tell her how things went. She doesn’t understand too much about the sport, but she’s just happy that I am doing well and enjoying myself. When I moved to Bengaluru, I gave my mother my old mobile phone. She hadn’t ever used Whatsapp, but I needed her to see what was going on here. My neighbours go over to help her use the app when I send her pictures or videos – especially of me playing or scoring goals.”

He has spent most of his young career away from the comfort of his home, and Shivasakthi acknowledges that the sacrifices – made by him and his family – have been tough. “Staying away from my mother is the most difficult thing, but it is not new to me. I lost my father when I was very young, and my mother raised me pretty much all by herself. I would have understood if she expected me to not play around, study well and find a normal job. But she allowed me to chase my dreams and here I am.”

The pandemic has given him time to settle down at the club, with Shivasakthi joining the Blues’ training camp at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Bellary before making the trip to Bengaluru with his teammates. “Training in Bellary helped a lot. It took almost a month for us to get to know each other, to become friends. Now we’re looking out for each other and always there when anyone needs us. Even the language barrier doesn’t bother us anymore.”

He watches all of the Blues’ Indian Super League games and, unsurprisingly, that’s the level he aims to reach with the club. “I’m always tuned in when the games are on. There are players like Leon [Augustine], Parag [Shrivas] and Suresh [Wangjam], who were in the B team not long ago. They are proof that if you are good enough, you can make it to the top.”

His long-term goal is more specific than just being a part of the senior team. “I want to play for the first team, yes. But I want to play for the team in my position, leading the line rather than being moved elsewhere. The ISL has a history of clubs preferring foreign strikers to be the focal point and that’s something I hope to change one day.”

The teenager’s time at Bengaluru FC has started as well as he could have hoped for, with Shivasakthi bagging seven goals and six assists in just three games in the BDFA Super Division League so far. He was even handed the captain’s armband in last week’s clash against Income Tax. The numbers are even more impressive, considering Shivasakthi is up against players who are sometimes over a decade older than him. In this battle of boy versus men, this kid isn’t backing down.