26. Fanai Lalrempuia

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At first glance, Fanai Lalrempuia seems to be a quiet, shy individual, one who could almost be mistaken for a school boy. But put him on the football field and then behold his genius! His superb ball control, his accurate passing, his understanding of the game, his exquisite touches, his speed… And at just 17 years of age, he is in a class of his own!

This young Mizo lad started playing football at the age of 11 and instantly fell in love with the game. Encouraged by his father, an employee at the water works department in Lunglei, Mizoram, he started playing the game in his village and soon was playing for his local village team, Bazarveng FC. Inspired by his mentor, Flalbiakchhunga, who was his village coach and the person to whom he looked up to for guidance, Lalrempuia’s game steadily started improving and his performances were soon a notch better than his peers.

Unsurprisingly, he soon got selected in the under-14 district and went on further to peak in the under-17 level. In 2010, the youngster was selected in the Maomit High School team for the Subroto Cup. It was here that Pune FC Youth Assistant coach Gift Raikhan (now assistant first team coach), spotted the young midfielder, recognized his talent and selected him for a trial at PPFCA.

The playmaker impressed the Pune FC staff during his trial, and soon was given a chance to join the academy, an opportunity which he grabbed gleefully with both hands. He was an integral part of the two time consecutive Under-20 I-League winning Pune FC team as he pulled the strings from the midfield. Being the vital cog in the midfield, he contributed with 2 goals in the 2011-12 season and 4 goals in the 2012-13 U-20 I-League.

Lalrempuia became the youngest ever player to represent Pune FC in the I-League when he made his debut against Air India in round 25 of the I-League 2012-13 season. He also became the second Academy graduate to make his I-League debut after Nikhil Kadam.

Fanai, who was selected in the Maharashtra squad for the Santosh trophy 2013 led the team to the semifinals. He was also named in the 26 member India under-19 squad that travelled to China under the India under-19 Exposure tour and also managed to score in a friendly game.

A free-kick specialist and a very reliable spot-kick taker, Lalrempuia, was adjudged as the Best Player (Under-19) in the 2012-13 season.

In spite of being one of those players who consider football as the most important thing in their life, Puia, interestingly enough thinks that he could also have had as a table tennis player. Idolising Paul Scholes and Xavi, he hopes to ply his trade at Old Trafford one day, in the same position as the pass master’s.

The midfielder, who considers his family, which consists of his parents, elder sister and brother, as his inspiration to do well in football, now hopes to make the most of the opportunity granted to him by Pune FC and wants to one day play for the National team.

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