Forgotten Stars of the U-17 World Cup

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2) Komal Thatal

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Komal Thatal, the highly-rated flamboyant winger was born in Sikkim, India on the 18th of September 2000. He first began playing football on a competitive level for Namchi Sports Academy, Sikkim in 2011. Within three years, he was selected and became part of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Elite Academy batch. Komal was part of the 21 man squad for the U-17 World Cup.

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Just before the World Cup, Komal showed a lot of promise and scored against Brazil in the AFC U-16 Championship (Bricks Championship), and still remains the only Indian to ever manage this. But despite being a talented player known for his dribbling and pace, he didn’t live up to the expectations for India in their first match against the USA and was not selected again during the campaign.

After the disappointing World Cup campaign, Komal decided not to follow suit like most of his teammates, who joined Indian Arrows to get more game time. Instead, Komal chose to play in the Indian Super League (ISL) for ATK, now known as ATK Mohun Bagan.  He became the youngest ever player (aged 17 years and 132 days) to play in the ISL when he made his debut against Jamshedpur FC. He played 13 times during his stint with ATK Mohun Bagan, before making his recent move to Jamshedpur FC, in order to prove himself, and realize his true potential.

  1. Anwar Ali
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Anwar Ali, was born on August 28, 2000, in Punjab and was one of the most reliable players for India in the U-17 World Cup in 2017, and started all three games in the tournament. The tenacious center-half was highly sought after and was destined to play for India at the International level.

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After the World Cup, Ali like many others from the U-17 squad was selected to play for Indian Arrows, and only after one season made his big jump to the Indian Super League side, Mumbai City FC. Ali who represented India at the U-20 and U-23 levels caught the eye of the current Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac and was almost about to break into the senior national team. But, in 2019 he was diagnosed with a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardio Myopathy (HCM), which results in thickening of some heart muscles and nerves, and after running further tests a few health professionals advised Ali to quit playing and the AIFF barred him from playing professional football.

But Ali didn’t want to quit and decided to go to court, and after a series of legal battles, the Delhi High Court granted him permission to play again. So, he trained alone, worked hard, and joined Techtro Swadesh United FC, in the Himachal League, where he showed the world that he was not done just yet. Anwar Ali has recently joined his boyhood club Round Glass Punjab FC and currently plays for them.

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