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‘My dream sporting journey to Spain has taken off, courtesy my school’

Apeejay Noida student Adi Joshi is living his football dream by playing in the U-16 league for Palamos CF and training in the club’s academy near Barcelona

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Adi Joshi, class 10 student at Apeejay School Noida is on his way to become India’s gift to world football. He was recently selected to play for Palamos CF in Spain in the Under 16 football league. In an interview, the player who can juggle a football 600 times in one go, explains the selection procedure to join the Spanish team, how the school helped him reach where he has and  shares a few glimpses of his life as an overseas player. Edited Excerpts:

At what age did you start playing football?

I began playing around class 3. I used to play in the PT period with my friends.  It was later after watching matches on television that my interest in the game developed and I desired to play professionally. I joined the TNM academy in Ghaziabad in 2016 and the journey began. I was in class 6then.  I was a part of the junior team as well as the senior team of my school. I played in the CBSE National Cluster tournament for my school.

 Then the Bhaichung Bhutia Academy came to my school and I joined it instantly. I played in many inter-school tournaments as well. During that time the trials for Odisha FC were happening so I went there and got selected in their U-13 team. I played the I-league with them as well. I joined Rajasthan FC in 2019. I played with them for one season. The Perfect Football academy has a tie-up with both Rajasthan FC in India and Palamos CF in Spain.  Palamos CF scouted me there in 2021.

What is your inspiration behind choosing football as a career?

My father inspires me a lot. He has always pushed me to practice. Before class 5 I did not have much interest in sports. Slowly the interest to play professionally arose. My father used to take me to the matches and the training sessions. He used to wake me up early in the morning for running and gym sessions.

In which position do you play?

 I like to play as an attacking-midfielder. The no 10 position.

Who are your role models in football, your favourite footballers?

I follow Kevin De Bruyne since we play in the same position. I also followed Mesut Ozil at his prime when he played in Real Madrid and later at Arsenal. Of course, like everyone, I too like Messi and Ronaldo (laughs)

Since you mentioned attacking midfielders, do Kaka and Ronaldinho inspire you?

Yes, yes. I like Ronaldinho a lot, I watch his clips on YouTube.

Which is your favourite team?

Real Madrid. My favourite player in the team is Gareth Bale but he doesn’t get many minutes there. I think he would have gotten more playing time at Tottenham Hotspur. Amongst the nations, I support Spain since I live here now (laughs)

Please tell us the selection procedure for Palamos CF?

I played an entire season with Rajasthan FC. There were so many matches, tournaments and training sessions. Palamos CF saw my performance throughout the season and then selected me. 

How is life in Spain?

I went to Spain this year in April for the first time. I stayed there for two months. Actually I had arrived at the end of the season. Then when the season started in September, I went back to Spain. I stay at Palamos, which is in Barcelona. Life is good here. Everything is close by. I live in an apartment with some of the fellow selected players from India. The gym and restaurant are downstairs. The beach is nearby too. Palamos CF sends us to train at the training centres of other teams and academies such as Teresa FC, which plays the Tercera division in Spain (Fifth division Spanish football). Xavi began his playing career there. Players from all over the world – including Canada, USA, Japan — are here at Palamos CF. It feels very nice to be here.

Have you signed any contract with Palamos CF?

Yes. Palamos CF covers my training, food and kit expenses. Accommodation and flight expenses are arranged by the player. I am a minor, aged 14. I don’t get paid by them. At the age of 17-18 one gets a professional contract.

Tell me about your training, diet and the recovery exercises?

Training starts on Monday morning. We do conditioning in the gym and focus on recovery exercises since we play matches on Saturdays. We do core and leg exercises using the exercise ball at the gym. We also do foam rolling.

The next gym session is on Thursday. We do squats and machine-based exercises that day.

Every day in the football training sessions we do different drills with football. On Monday we focus on strength training on the ground and work on position drills.  The next day we work on possession.

On Tuesday, we don’t have training since we have Spanish classes from 11-4 PM.  I am currently at the A1 level. On Wednesdays we have morning and evening training sessions with our respective age groups on the turf. I train with the U-16 age group. On Thursdays we have morning training sessions on the turf, followed by our Spanish classes. 

On Fridays we do fun-based light training since we have a match the next day. So we play foot-tennis. It is followed by a tactical session in the evening. Then we have the match on Saturday and we rest on Sundays.

We get breakfast at 9 AM daily. We get ham and cheese sandwiches, omelettes, cereals, boiled eggs and cornflakes. For lunch at around 2 PM, we eat rice, salads and yogurt daily.  Along with rice, we eat chicken breast or meatballs or some variety. At dinner at around 9 PM, we eat rice with varieties of chicken again. On weekends at dinner, we get pizzas. It is a form of relaxation after playing the matches.

For more recovery after the games, we go to the beach. We play beach volleyball and some more games. The sea water is very cold, so in the end we spend a lot of time in the water. The water is so cold, it is just like an ice bath used for recovery (laughs).

Which is your favourite football movie?

I loved the movie: Pele. His struggles with poverty, racism inspired me a lot. His fight to become a professional footballer against all odds motivated me so much.

What are your aims and aspirations in the field of football?

I want to play for India. I also want to play for my favourite team Real Madrid.

What are some of the tips you want to give to budding footballers who are trying to make it as professionals?

Passion and hard work. Keep these with you. Support and luck are also very essential.

Yesterday the world marked one year without Diego Maradona. What are your thoughts on that?

He played in the No 10 position as well. He was one of the greatest players to play the game ever. 

What are the differences you observed between the football academies in India and Spain?

Here in Spain, they focus on each and every aspect of the game and the athlete such as even body balance. The training intensity is very high and there is a lot of pressure on performance.

A day in the life of an Indian footballer in Spain

  • Workout routine: Training starts on Monday morning. We do conditioning in the gym and focus on recovery exercises since we play matches on Saturdays. We do core and leg exercises using the exercise ball at the gym. We also do foam rolling. The next gym session is on Thursday. We do squats and machine-based exercises that day.
  • The devil lies in the drills: Every day in the football training sessions we do different drills with football. On Monday we focus on strength training on the ground and work on position drills.  The next day we work on possession.
  • Found in translation: On Tuesday, we don’t have training since we have Spanish classes from 11-4 PM.  I am currently at the A1 level. On Wednesdays we have morning and evening training sessions with our respective age groups on the turf. I train with the U-16 age group. On Thursdays we have morning training sessions on the turf, followed by our Spanish classes.
  • Fun and games: On Fridays we do fun-based light training since we have a match the next day. So we play foot-tennis. It is followed by a tactical session in the evening. Then we have the match on Saturday and we rest on Sundays.
  • Diet another day: We get breakfast at 9 AM daily. We get ham and cheese sandwiches, omelettes, cereals, boiled eggs and cornflakes. For lunch at around 2 PM, we eat rice, salads and yogurt daily.  Along with rice, we eat chicken breast or meatballs or some variety. At dinner at around 9 PM, we eat rice with varieties of chicken again. On weekends at dinner, we get pizzas. It is a form of relaxation after playing the matches.
  • Life is a beach: For more recovery after the games, we go to the beach. We play beach volleyball and some more games. The sea water is very cold, so in the end we spend a lot of time in the water. The water is so cold, it is just like an ice bath used for recovery (laughs).

How does the school help you in realizing your passion?

I could join the Bhaichung Bhutia Academy since it was set up in my school. That is where my journey started. They didn’t take any payment from me, neither the school nor the academy. I think it was due to my good performance.

But it was only due to the training I received there that I could play in many other tournaments.

 I would like to thank all the teachers at school, Principal Sir, vice principal ma’am.

 I never thought of changing my school even after going to Spain. I am a student of Apeejay Noida since Nursery and this is my school. I attended the classes when I came to India during the season break. I gave my exams from Spain. I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning due to the time difference. I love my school a lot. It has always supported me and they deserve the credit. 

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]

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