24. Salam Ranjan Singh

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Though everyone would agree that relatively overnight success isn’t simply feasible in football, the curious case of Salam Ranjan Singh surely raises eyebrows and does cause one to rethink!

Born in Kha-Potessangbam, Manipur, this 6 feet tall, 17-year-old central defender didn’t take up to playing serious football almost till the age of 15. Starting out as a striker, his local coach, Shiband Sir, converted him into a central defender to make the best use of his natural abilities.

Soon he started dominating all the opposition attackers as he was imperious in defence, combining his obvious aerial abilities with brilliant positional sense. It was as recent as 2010 when Ranjan’s hard tackling ability impressed Maniratnam, a coach attached with Directorate of Youth and Sports Affairs, Manipur, during an all-Manipur Inter-District Tournament.

On the coach’s advice, Ranjan took the Pune FC trials held in Manipur and was shortlisted among the multitude of boys who turned up in Imphal. In Pune during the final selection round, he was as impressive as before and duly inducted into the first batch of the Peninsula Pune FC Academy.

Since then, he hasn’t looked back! Being part of the team which won back to back Under-20 I-League titles, Salam Ranjan has looked very comfortable at the heart of the defence. Astoundingly the team conceded only 11 goals during the course of two seasons in the span of 18 matches.

The accolades for Salam don’t end there! Not only was he included in the Maharashtra’s squad for Santosh trophy 2013 but he was also selected for the India Under-19 training camp. He was even awarded as the ‘Best Disciplined Under-19 Player’ of the 2012-13 season. On the back of his stupendous performances for the Under-20 team, Salam has been promoted to the senior team for the 2013-14 season thus handing him the opportunity to shine on the big stage.

In spite of being a central defender, this youngster idolizes Ronaldinho and unsurprisingly loves to watch Brazil and Barcelona in action. He loves to listen to Manipuri as well as Hindi music and spends his free time by watching football or playing games on his cell phone.

Salam Ranjan, who could easily be termed as a ‘smiling assassin’ as whether it’s an answer or a crunching tackle, it is always accompanied by a smile, knows there is absolutely no substitute to hard work and hopes to play for the Indian national team one day.

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