Jeakson Singh Thanoujam, whose bullet header against Colombia in the U-17 World Cup became India’s first-ever goal in any Fifa tournament, says it has given the debutants belief to beat Ghana in their next match.
A victory over Ghana on Thursday night will be required for the hosts to continue their U-17 World Cup adventure.
“We believe we can win against Ghana. We will be together and we will fight for this win,” Jeakson was quoted as saying by the Fifa website.
“It is not often that I get a chance to score a goal, so I feel very excited. I want to say thanks to my team-mates for giving me a chance to score.”
Playing in their second Fifa U-17 World Cup game against Colombia, India had the fancied South American nation at their mercy on more than two occasions in front of more than 46,000 vociferous crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
India’s glorious moment arrived when Jeakson headed in a perfect Sanjeev Stalin corner in the 82nd minute.
“I was thinking the ball would be coming my way (from the corner), so I was already focused on that ball and I went and headed it into the goal.”
Jeakson said India “deserved” a result in their favour.
“It was a nice experience and I felt on cloud nine when I scored the goal, however we tried our best but were unlucky. It is obviously a great feeling to score for my country in a Fifa World Cup but it would have been sweeter had we won the match.
“We deserved a result, and we tried our very best to get it, but in the process we learnt a huge lesson what international football is all about.”
On cloud nine
Irrespective of whether India make the knockout stages or not, the midfielder has taken pride in being part of something unprecedented in the country.
“It’s the first time that India is competing in a World Cup. Not only me, but all of India is excited for the U-17 World Cup. It’s the first time in history, so I am part of history. I’m very happy and very excited.”
His joy last night was rather short-lived as Colombia took the lead a minute later and made it 2-1.
“Our team was very happy that we scored the goal, but then when we conceded, we felt very sad. After we conceded, we were not putting in the same energy as we were putting in before we scored the goal.”
Jeakson, a defensive midfielder in the 21-member Indian team, hails from from Haokha Mamang village in Manipur’s Thoubal district. His father Konthoujam Deben Singh suffered a stroke in 2015 and had to leave his job with the Manipur police.
His family is now dependent on the meagre income brought by his mother from selling vegetables at the Khwairamband Bazar in Imphal, 25km from her home.
Jeakson had to face the disappointment of being rejected by the national selectors in 2015 when he was with an academy in Chandigarh.
At nearly six feet, he was called unnaturally tall for a boy of that age, according to former coach Nicolai Adam. But his indomitable brought him back into the Indian team for the U-17 World Cup.
He will go down in the Indian sporting history as the one who gave unbridled joy to millions with a strike that will be etched in memory.