From the stands to starting with the stars

It Was One Of Several Match Experiences That Amay Morajkar Had Growing Up, But Amay Morajkar Remembers One Night At The Tilak Maidan Better Than Most…

In April of 2013, 12-year-old Amay Morajkar made his way up into the stands at the Tilak Maidan to watch Churchill Brothers take on Dempo SC in the 2012-13 I-League. Sitting with his teammates from the AIFF U14 Elite Academy, Amay remembers seeing Sunil Chhetri score twice, moments he says he will never be able to forget.

“That was the first time I went to watch a game and I remember it like yesterday. Dempo took the lead early through Ryuji Sueoka and Chhetri bhai equalised from a free-kick. Then Climax Lawrence scored in first half injury time to make it 2-1 to Dempo again. Chhetri bhai came out in the second half and scored another free-kick. He just wouldn’t miss! I was 12 years old then, and I hadn’t even thought of playing professional football. You can imagine my excitement at having the chance to train and play with him every day,” Amay laughs.

Churchill Brothers won the I-League in 2013, before Sunil Chhetri made the move to Bengaluru FC later that year. Amay, plying his trade for the National Youth teams, says his dream had been made by playing for his country.

“I didn’t ever think I was good at football. I played around my house in Bicholim with my friends, when a coach from the area asked us to join a Government coaching program. From there I went to SESA for trials, and then got the chance to represent the Goa state team. Then, when there were trials in Verna for the Youth National teams, I knew I had to try,” Amay recalls.

Representing the AIFF through their Elite Academy Program for four years, Amay was released in 2016 when the thought of club football came to mind. With the support of his family, Amay caught the train to Bengaluru where a trial with the Blues awaited him.

“A group of us were released by AIFF and we went together to try out for Bengaluru FC. We could have been part of the National Team for the U17 World Cup, but it didn’t happen. Yes, I was upset about it but my parents asked me to keep my head down and work hard. I knew I wanted to play football, and BFC gave me that opportunity.”

Flying since his inclusion into the Bengaluru FC Residential Program, tragedy struck in 2017 when, playing the U18 I-League, Amay tore the ligaments in his left knee. Another set-back that the youngster says tested his resolve. “I knew it was bad the moment it happened. I heard my ligament snap, and later they told me it required surgery. I sobbed the whole day, cos I couldn’t understand why this had happened. I couldn’t tell my parents so I asked our physiotherapist Vishnu sir to do it for me. The thought of not playing football for so long was too much for me to bear.”

Beginning his rehab at the club’s IIS facilities in Bellary, Amay says he fell deeply in love with this club and his teammates. “I’ll be honest when I say that I was scared. But the way I was being treated; being taken to the best hospitals, treated by the best doctors, giving the best facilities, it showed me that this club cared. My teammates, Aryan, Tanmoy, Harry, were always spending time with me in the room just to keep me in high spirits and helping me bring ice back to the room for my treatment. It was a long year, but coming back to the pitch was easy because I had them by my side.”

Returning from injury and putting in fine performances for the U18s, Amay soon received a call from the club’s reserve team to take part in the BDFA Super Division League. Watched on by former Blues’ Head Coach Carles Cuadrat, Amay was then drafted in to train with the club’s senior team. “It gives me goosebumps to remember that moment. We had just finished training with the U18s when our coach read out a list of players who were to join the senior team for the next session. I couldn’t sleep that night because it was so exciting for me.”

Rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in Indian football, Amay says he tried to grasp as much as he could, on and off the pitch, in those days. “It was difficult at first, and adjusting to the pace of senior team football took time. But I learned so much then and I am still learning. Players like Dimas, Erik and Khabra bhai, who have played in my position for so many years, they’re always pulling me aside and giving me information. Not many 20-year-olds get this opportunity.”

From making his debut in a 9-0 win over Paro FC in the AFC Cup last year, Amay says that being handed minutes in games that are up in the air makes him feel more confident about himself. “When I played in that AFC Cup game, it felt really good. But these games mean more because I’m asked to bring something to the table. I was on the pitch for just two minutes when we scored the winner against Odisha FC earlier this season and that felt so good. I’m eager to make the most of these chances.”

Having made four appearances so far this season, Amay says he wants to get his name on the scoresheet at some point this season. “Every player has targets. Last season I wanted to get into the senior team, and this year I want to be able to put my name on a scoresheet. I want to score or assist a goal in the Indian Super League and that’s what I’m working towards. Having Moosa sir as Head Coach has given us a lot of confidence and that has really helped us young players express ourselves on the pitch.”

His most recent appearance for the Blues, against NorthEast United last week, came at the Tilak Maidan, and Amay says it was a surreal experience to be in his shoes that night. “I couldn’t stop trying to remember that day in 2013, when I watched Churchill Brothers take on Dempo in the I-League. Back then I was in the stands waiting for the teams to come out of the tunnel, and this time I was coming out with them. I had celebrated Chhetri bhai’s goal that night, and this time I was trying to score alongside him. Life really came full circle for me that night, and I like to think I’m only getting started.”

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