Free Press Journal

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Meet Aniket Jadhav, the only Maharashtra player in India’s squad


Indian football team will begin their campaign in the FIFA U-17 World Cup against the United States of America on October 6. All eyes will be on those 11 teenagers who, irrespective of the results, will create history. And the one player in particular who will have a lot of focus on him is the team’s first choice striker, Aniket Jadhav. With Aniket being India’s most prominent hope for getting goals, the pressure and the expectations will be high on him.

Aniket Jadhav from Kolhapur, Maharashtra is a part of India’s U-17 World Cup squad. He has already scored many crucial goals for the country so far. Born in 2000, Jadhav is physically strong having all the attributes of a poacher and can play with both feet.

In 2009, Aniket then only nine, left his Kolhapur home against his parents’ wish to join a football camp in Balewadi, Pune. A few months later, his father made his first attempt to lure his only son to return back home. In 2010, he gave it another shot and when he failed for the third time despite getting the ‘Krida Prabhodini’ coach Jaideep Angirwal involved, his father gave up. And now, seven years’ later, Aniket is the only Maharashtra player in India’s U-17 World Cup squad.

During his childhood, Aniket used to play football with his friends in Shahupuri where he lives. One day, his uncle, noticed something special in his football. It was him who took him for the ‘Krida Prabhodini’ selection trials in Pune. Thereafter he joined Pune FC where he joined the Under-15 side before progressing to the Under-17s. His father drives an autorickshaw after the textile mill he was employed with, shut down.

Aniket, however, could have opted for athletics at the multi-discipline camp but insisted that football was his calling and he didn’t shy away from expressing his choice during the final interview process before full-time admission into an academy. Aniket embarked on his competitive football journey at the age of nine, as a Class V student at Krida Prabhodini. Aniket, who did not have the courage to say no to his father, told him that he will try and return home after a few months.

Passion alone does not guarantee important selections. Aniket suffered a blow when he was ignored for the state under-14 side for a tournament in 2010. He got depressed after not making into the team. He refused to eat his meals for several days. But there was something else the forward did apart from picking himself up after the omission. He went to his room and stuck a note on the inside door of his cupboard. The note read: ‘I want to play a World Cup anyhow.’ And that slip of paper was a source of inspiration for him and a reminder to work harder in order to realise his dream of playing for India.

His point about the potential for more hidden talent in a country of over a billion people might well be right but for now, Jadhav, along with 20 other starlets, will carry the expectations of those who couldn’t make it, come October 6. But to note, his coach Jaideep Angirwal, who trained him at ‘Krida Prabhodini’ from the age of nine is currently jobless for the last 18 months.