SPORT

Ashique Kuruniyan to train at Villareal CF

A lanky Indian teenager from FC Pune City Academy, Mohd Ashique Kuruniyan, who hails from Malappuram in Kerala, has left for Spain to train with the Villareal CF ‘C’ squad.

Trained by Spanish head coach Roger Lamesa at the Pune-based academy and identified as the best graduate from his batch, the India under-19 winger’s adaptability in Spain will be used to benchmark future academy trainees for placement with clubs there, explains Gaurav Modwel, CEO of FCPC.

Excerpts:

India international Mandar Desai went to Villarreal. India u-19 player Mohammed Ashique is now being sent on loan there. Why?

Last year we had sent Mandar Desai (FC Goa forward in ISL) on a 15-day trial, to benchmark Indian footballers compared to La Liga club standards. He was there for a very short stint. We wanted to send a younger player from the academy and see where he fits in, how he adapts to the system there.

Can you explain the anticipated benefits from sending Ashique?

For us, the excitement is to see how he is copes with the challenges (language, new place). It is an exploratory opportunity, whether he can make any impact in the ‘C’ team. If he is able to adjust in a matter of two-three months, many opportunities will open up for other academy kids. We can then calibrate which type of players can go and the type of Spanish clubs they can be sent to.

What was the procedure for choosing Ashique?

The academy has many Spanish coaches whose recommendation was considered. We then sent his videos. Among the players just graduating, he is clearly the best. Ashique had a few ISL offers but decided to stay on and go in for more development work at this stage.

Performing in the ISL can also kickstart a teenager’s career. Your thoughts?

If he is getting to play every ISL game, then the experience is great for anyone. If he doesn’t, then match days are so close, training days are few and the focus is on those in the playing XI or top 15. Suppose a youngster like him is not able to get into the top 15, for reasons beyond his control, three months of non-developmental practice can be disastrous.

Kids who are 19-21 years, cannot be seduced by the commercial offers. They have to finish their football studies. In academics, you need to complete graduation, though by 12th you may be brilliant, a genius. I believed it was important for Ashique to continue his process and go on to play for India.

Where does Ashique’s career go from here?

We are looking at the possibility of his batch (1998-born) being converted into an I-League Second Division team next season. Talks are on with the AIFF.

Suppose he is loaned to another club by Villarreal CF, does Pune City come into the picture?

The loan has to be through Pune City. Right now the loan is not registered, the transfer window opens in December and then he gets registered with Villarreal CF. For some reason, if he does not get into Villarreal or they feel he needs more time, then we will see where we can fit him.

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