It was not long ago that a 14-year-old Aniket Jadhav was passing balls to the likes of Pritam Kotal and Lenny Rodrigues in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. Six seasons later, Aniket is readying himself to face them in his first season of the ISL with Jamshedpur FC.
On Tuesday, the Kolhapur-born youngster who shot to fame after he was selected for India's 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup team, made his dream debut in the ISL when he started for Jamshedpur FC against Odisha FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur.
"To be honest, I was very excited to join the Jamshedpur FC team for my first ISL season. I am looking forward to the season," said the 19-year-old, who, after the U-17 World Cup, followed his development in the I-League with Indian Arrows.
Opening up on why he chose Jamshedpur FC, Aniket said, "When I was young, I used to follow the likes of Subrata Paul and Steven Dias (assistant coach at Jamshedpur FC). I actually used to be a ball-boy for the Indian Super League during the first two seasons in the games at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. I spoke to five-six senior players before signing for Jamshedpur and all spoke highly of the facilities and the team culture here."
Played a role as ball boy for @IndSuperLeague season-1,-2 2013-14, 2014-15 back then,and dreamt of playing @IndSuperLeague one day. Now here I’m playing for @jamshedpurfc . Always grateful for everything, believe in yourself and your dreams they do come true. pic.twitter.com/GcCMhCZfxb— Aniket Jadhav official (@aniketjadhav09) October 21, 2019
Aniket spent a good three months training at English club Blackburn Rovers during the close season, gaining invaluable experience, which he plans on putting to use in the upcoming season.
"It was a good exposure trip for me. I learnt a lot as a professional football player. There was so much knowledge to soak in from the coaches and the players at Blackburn Rovers. Surely, I would be able to put my learnings to use in this ISL," said Aniket, who was snapped up by Jamshedpur FC the previous season before being loaned out to Arrows once again.
Finally the wait has come to an end for this tournament which commences from today onwards. i would like to thank @Rovers for sending me good wishes on this tournament. keep supporting and sending love as these prayers and wishes mean alot to me, thank you once again!! #TrueLove pic.twitter.com/KL1Mn811sk— Aniket Jadhav official (@aniketjadhav09) October 22, 2019
Aniket surely knew that the road to become the first name on the team sheet ahead of the likes of seasoned campaigner CK Vineeth and India international Farukh Choudhary is tough, he surely has worked his way up.
Now, after an hour of the taste of the thrill that ISL provides, he will be baying for more.
(With inputs from ISL)