Indian U17 international Gurnaj Singh spoke about his journey, inspiration and future goals as they prepare for the upcoming AFC U-17 Asian Camp in Thailand.

Deep in the region of Kao Yai, just beside the third largest National Park in Thailand, every room belonging to any member of the India U-17 national team leaves a simple message for everyone: “Qualify for the World Cup”. For holding midfielder Gurnaj Singh Grewal, it’s small gestures like these that make the team so special.

Gurnaj In action in the U17 training.

All set for the FIFA U-17 Qualifiers

“The atmosphere within this team is really good. Everyone has a positive mindset, and we are all collectively confident that we can make it to the (FIFA U-17) World Cup,” says Gurnaj to “Our staff officials all take good care of us and make sure that we are all in a good mindset ahead of the Asian Cup.”

India has been drawn in Group D of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, where they will face the likes of Vietnam (June 17), Uzbekistan (June 20), and Japan (June 23).

The top two teams from each group will make it through to the quarter-finals, and ensuring a seat in the semi-finals would also mean qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is set to take place later this year.

Family support has been Gurnaj Singh’s biggest strength

Hailing from Chandigarh, Gurnaj is one of the lucky youngsters, who have had the backing of their family in their endeavour to become a professional footballer. While many families in India encourage their children to pay more attention to studies rather than to sports, Gurnaj’s parents went the other way.

“My father always wanted to be a footballer, but could never play at the professional level. He’s passed that dream onto me, and I very much intend to fulfil it,” Gurnaj said to

Apart from being an inspiration, Gurnaj’s father has also played a significant role in getting him kick-started in the beautiful game.

“My father was my first coach, so I learned a lot about technique from him before I joined the CFA (Chandigarh Football Academy),” said Gurnaj.

The young holding medio soon showed his mettle and was called up to the India U-17 team last year, going on to play a key role as the team lifted the SAFF U-17 Championship and secured qualification for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup.

Overseas exposure enhancing performance

“The camps we had in Spain and Germany were an eye-opener for most of us. We had not really seen much of the world before that, but the level of football, coaching, and attention to details, especially off the pitch, were something completely new to us,” he said.

“We were given detailed classes by the coaches in Spain and Germany about rest and diet, which really helped us understand that aspect of the game”.

“Of course, we also got to play against the junior teams of some big clubs like Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, VfB Stuttgart and FC Augsburg. I have seen these teams on TV as a kid, but never imagined that I could play against them someday. That really motivated all the players,” said Gurnaj.

“I can say with guarantee that after playing such teams, our players are very confident on the pitch, and absolutely focussed outside it. We all want to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.

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