A number of players have caught the eye after the initial rounds of the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) campaign — one of them being Hyderabad FC‘s 19-year-old full-back Akash Mishra. The youngster, who has played every minute of the club’s three games so far, is making his ISL debut this season and in an interview with AIFF, the former Indian Arrows man talked about playing in the “high-quality” competition and his mindset on the field.
“It’s very nice to be in the ISL. It’s a big league with big teams featuring so many high-quality Indian and international players. We would watch them on TV and think of playing like them, and now, we’re getting the opportunity of playing with and against them. It’s a great feeling," the youngster expressed.
“Of course, the pressure to play well and win is always there but I don’t think too much about it. My philosophy is to keep things simple and execute the plan given by the coach. I feel that the important thing is that you don’t think too much about the opponents you will face and instead, focus on your own game and improving."
Hyderabad FC have so far enjoyed an unbeaten start to their ISL campaign with Akash playing on the left side of the defence — his consistency being a standout feature. The same aspect was on display last season in the I-League as well, where the full-back played in every game for the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) developmental side Indian Arrows and even wore the captain’s armband.
Making the transition from an all-Indian developmental team to one with a number of senior India internationals and foreigners can be a daunting and challenging prospect but according to Akash, the support from his new teammates has made the process much easier — both on and off the pitch.
🗣️ @HydFCOfficial‘s Akash Mishra: “Playing in the Hero @IndSuperLeague has been a great experience. We are getting to play with and against players that we used to watch on TV!" 📺#IndianFootball #ISL #HeroISL pic.twitter.com/rb1coq7mng— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) December 5, 2020
“At the Arrows, all of us were in the same age group but here at Hyderabad, we have many senior and foreign players in the squad. Naturally, it’s a bit different and takes time to adapt but the support of all, especially the senior players, has been wonderful. They are very helpful — on and off the field — and even in the dining hall, they sit with us, talk and share their experiences," Akash quipped.
“During the match, I play as a left full-back and so, Subrata-bhai (Subrata Paul) is right there behind me. In front of me, Hali-bhai (Halicharan Narzary) is there and even Adil-bhai (Adil Khan) is there in midfield. In training and during matches, Subrata-bhai keeps me on my toes and keeps shouting my name. Before my debut game, all of them told me to just be myself, not take too much pressure and play simple, which was extremely helpful," he added.
The young gun from Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh mentioned the importance of having the right “character” to succeed at the top level and stressed on the value of quick decision-making on the field.
“Technical ability and fitness are prerequisites to play at this level but one’s character also plays a very important role. In a tournament like the ISL where you are around senior players, you cannot afford to be scared. You have to be decisive and once make a decision, you cannot change at the last moment and you have to stick to it. There is no room for half-heartedness. Decision liya hai toh liya hai!"
It was only in 2018 that Akash was scouted for the Indian Arrows and U-19 national team but soon after making his junior national team debut, he had to wait for his opportunity in the I-League after a series of injuries. He spoke about the importance of recovering fully before returning to action and making optimum use of time when out injured.
“Injuries are a part of football. I have seen both my legs get injured and missed a large part of my first Arrows season as a result. However, when you are injured you should never try to hurry back since it leads to back-to-back injuries. When I was out, I would watch videos of my previous games and even other matches to analyse my performance. Another important practice is visualization and focusing on how you are going to play when you come back.”