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ISL 2020-21: Hyderabad FC's 20-year-old Centre-back Nikhil Prabhu Models Himself on Sergio Ramos

Hyderabad FC defender Nikhil Prabhu Models Himself on Sergio Ramos (photo credit: Nikhil Prabhu Instagram)

Hyderabad FC defender Nikhil Prabhu Models Himself on Sergio Ramos (photo credit: Nikhil Prabhu Instagram)

ISL 2020-21: Nikhil Prabhu, waiting for his first chance in the Indian Super League, spoke to News18.com about Hyderabad FC's team environment, coach Manuel Marquez, his support system and more.

Hyderabad FC's Nikhil Prabhu is just 20 years of age. He is a centre-back. His favourite player is Sergio Ramos. And he is eagerly awaiting his ISL debut.

Prabhu has made the bench twice in Hyderabad FC's six Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 games so far but is yet to make his debut in India's top-tier league. Hyderabad began their season with Akash Mishra and Odei Onaindia in central defence against Odisha FC but since then, the centre-back pairing of Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh has featured in five games.

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Prabhu says he is working to be ready for any chance that comes his way, his coach Manuel Marquez has told him the same. The ISL season is short this time around due to the coronavirus pandemic and the games are coming really quick. That keeps a window of opportunity open for all the players of the squad given the chances of injury and the rest needed by players.

"He (Marquez) says 'be prepared, you can get a chance any time'. He has asked me to be a bit calm because I am quite aggressive," Prabhu told News18.com in an exclusive interaction.

Prabhu began his journey in Gujarat when he started playing football and cricket as a curricular activity following which the coach of his school's football team, included him in the squad. They played a few tournaments, won some and his father asked him to choose one sport and he picked football. Prabhu was then representing his school at the state level but then his father got transferred to Mumbai and the entire family moved there. There, he got admission in Ryan international school, which had a football team that was ranked second in the state. With a good coach to guide him there, Prabhu improved and went on to play for Mumbai FC, FC Pune City and is now at Hyderabad FC.

Prabhu said his father has been his biggest support. "My dad was a cricketer but his parents didn't support him much when he wanted to pursue it as a career. So, he supports me a lot and comes to watch all my games and he guides me a lot," he shared.

Prabhu said when he started playing football, his coach played him as a defender and since he did well there, it became his position. "After I started watching matches, I felt being a defender is the perfect role. My favourite is Sergio Ramos, he is very aggressive and there are many characteristics that I identify with. I then thought I would look up to him and imbibe qualities of how to play and lead. As a defender, I feel I am good with the ball and also in aerial battles," he described.

TEAM ENVIRONMENT

Prabhu considers cracking into the senior team at Hyderabad FC his biggest achievement so far and now, he looks forward to starting a few games. Prabhu shared that the team environment at Hyderabad is a very helpful one.

"The senior players are very helpful. If we do a mistake as a junior player then we get very nervous but they come to us and tell us that mistakes happen for everyone, ‘don't think too much about it’. They tell us how to do it the right way. The coach also tells us that forget the mistake that’s made and think about the next step and make sure it’s not repeated.

"The club environment is such that even if we are waiting in the wings, we feel like we are a part of the team. The coach always says everyone in the club is important and not just the XI," he said.

Prabhu's best friend in the team is Halicharan Narzary and the 20-year-old says he helps him a lot both on and off the field.

"As a young player, I have a lot to learn from the senior players like Adil (Khan) bhai and Sana (Chinglensana) bhai and also the foreigners like Odei. I have to improve a lot and they help me. Day by day I feel I am getting better. I am learning new things every single day from everyone, be it from Akash or Adil bhai. I try and learn and be better," Prabhu added.

'COACH ENGAGES US YOUNG PLAYERS'

Prabhu said coach Marquez wants to develop young players and that was something he really liked about the Spaniard. Marquez, who played as a defender himself, also speaks with Prabhu about the importance and nuances of defending.

"He speaks personally after training sessions and tells us what we could better. As a defender, he guides me before and after the training sessions, teaches me things - from the actions to the mentality. He tells us what to do when we receive the ball, positioning and he helps us young players a lot personally.

"He tells us how important the role of a centre-back is. The centre-back has to be calm with the ball and explains to us how to do well in that position. As a centre-back, he guides me regarding what can be done. He engages us young players. He tells about the mistakes he made as a defender as well and tell us how to improve on them."

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