Neeraj Kholiya – We want to give the stage to our homegrown players


Himachal Pradesh, the state called as the Land Of The Gods (Devbhumi), has always had immense footballing talent. However, there was no one to nurture the talent and take it forward. But now everything is being changed, thanks to Techtro Swades United FC (TSUFC). The youngest and first professional football club from the state is doing wonders in terms of encouraging young talent and promoting the best sport in the world – Football.

Techtro Swades United FC is participating in the I-League qualifiers this season. To know more about Techtro Swades United FC, IFTWC had an exclusive chat with its founder Neeraj Kholiya.

When asked about what TSUFC have planned for this season, Neeraj Kholiya said,

The first thing we have this season is our I-League qualifiers; we had already started our pre-season in Lucknow since the day we qualified for the I-League second division. We have been waiting for this moment, we might create history by becoming the first-ever club from Himachal Pradesh to play in the I-League second division. Our primary aim now is to win the I-League qualifiers and be the first-ever club from Himachal Pradesh to play the I-League.

What are the core values of the club that makes it different from the others?

The core value of the club is giving opportunities to young players who have never played professional level football. The club’s philosophy is to provide a chance for more homegrown players, players from North India who are not technically strong. We are trying to play beautiful football, we will be presenting new standard of football which will be implemented in North India. We are trying to play football with a good ideology, with a philosophy that will be totally dependent upon key ball position. I am sure we will be definitely making all the fans proud as the club is by the fans and for the players.

What are the qualities that you look for in a player, as you intend to play in the 2nd division?

The quality depends upon the style of play we choose; right now, we are focused on more technical players who can play in any tactical form. In North India, there is a misconception about having tall and robust players, but we are looking for good technical players who can be calm, composed and play good football. The most important thing is passion, if the player is passionate about playing professional football we are ready to help the player.

What is your target for this year?

“We are not glory hunters. Our target is to give more young players opportunities to play I-League second division, players who have never played national level football tournament and players who might get scouted for bigger clubs. Our philosophy is to help players out by giving opportunities, more than 20 players are going to play their first-ever national level football tournament game. Everyone will love the kind of football the players are going to play. Our first target is not qualifying for I-League, it is to give the stage to more homegrown players.

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Who are some of your key players and staff that could play a key role in this season?

“Every player in the club is a crucial player; all players have passion and determination, each and every player is a superstar, a hero for me. I am sure if we will be able to create local heroes, football in North India will definitely get a slot in the Indian Footballing map, our whole team will be of players of 20-21 years of age. We thought of having an all Indian squad, but to perform well, we also need players with experience. We are sure these young players will impress everyone by playing quality football. With the help of one of my mentors, Surender Sir, we will be mesmerising everyone with our quality of football.

Do you think Techtro is more than just a club as it has brought a new culture of football?

For me, Techtro is not a word. It is an emotion. I have been in Indian Football since 2014, in 2018, when I started my own club. I aimed to give a platform to those who want to become professional footballers. Now that we have reached here, I know that nothing is impossible in life. When someone has a will, there will be a way to earn great heights. There were many ups and downs in my life in the past years. I left my personal life and have been thinking only about football for 24 x 7.

We might play I-League this year. As a 21-year old, I feel that if we achieve the targets we have set for ourselves, many young people will be inspired and might start their own local clubs, giving a platform to local players who want to be professional footballers.

Money is something which is definitely be needed to run a club but with passion reaching great heights is not impossible. After we started Techtro Swades United FC, just after two months Shimla FC was started, my only dream is to see more clubs coming up in India to support local players and coaches.

What were the challenges that you have faced in this journey?

The journey so far has been a challenging one. We have faced our own share of ups and downs along the way. To begin with, we faced multiple hurdles such as financial stress, manpower and successfully executing our ambitions and plans. However, what worked in our favour was our never say die attitude and we are here because of that today.

Why did you start a club in Himachal Pradesh in the first place?

The reason to start the proceedings at Himachal Pradesh was due to the towering presence of (Mr Deepak Sharma – Secretary [Himachal Pradesh Football Association]). I met him when I went to complete my D-Licence there and it was a joy to watch him train the kids and carry out his footballing duties with a strong desire and passion. It was great to be in a state which was really welcoming and wants to develop football, unlike Uttar Pradesh where I faced potent politics. Thus this resulted in our decision to begin our journey from here.

Why Himachal Pradesh and not other states?

The main objective of starting a football club was to give opportunities to budding footballers across the country. We started in 2019 in Lucknow. However, due to the political scenario surrounding sports in the state, we could not reach a higher level. Nevertheless, we still have a club in Lucknow and now starting out in Himachal Pradesh has opened a door for us to compete in the second division I-League. Slowly and gradually we aim to open more such centres across the country where local players will be scouted and will have local clubs at their disposal. Our aim is to have multiple feeder clubs and one major club in the form of Techtro Swades United Football Club (TSUFC).

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What’s the advice you would like to give to a young football fan like you starting his own professional football club?

“My advice to all the football fans who want to undertake a similar journey like mine is to have strong self-belief and never say die spirit in abundance. It’s not difficult to start a football club, you just need a field, players and equipment’s and you could lead the team. There is so much football-related content on YouTube which makes it easier to kick start your journey.  Players are the key and they are the reason behind our success and rise over the period of last twelve months.”

What message do you have for the local fans who have stayed with you through thick and thin?

My message to all the fans across Himachal Pradesh and North India is to keep believing and supporting the players. The players need that kind of adulation from the supporters. With fans right behind us, I can assure you that, “ We will play attractive possession style football and the fans won’t be disappointed with us.”

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