Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


ISL 2019 EXCLUSIVE: Udanta Singh — Catching up with his pace, BFC's Asian dream and more

ISL 2019 EXCLUSIVE: Udanta Singh — Catching up with his pace, BFCs Asian dream and more


Published: 21 Oct 2019 4:47 AM GMT

It’s been five seasons that Udanta Singh has been at Bengaluru FC, playing at the top-most level and to say the least, he has been an integral part of the club’s success. Alwin Lawrence, the club’s team analyst, was trying to tell The Bridge exactly what the team expects from the pacy youngster this season.

Alwin, himself, joined BFC back in 2013 when Ashley Westwood brought him in. A member of the club’s first-ever Backroom Staff, he has been with the club since it’s very inception and is the only person to have worked with the three Head Coaches that have been at the helm. It’s easy to deduce that the 34-year-old has observed Udanta’s progression in senior football up close more than anyone else has.

“As it has been for every season he’s been at the club, there are massive expectations from Udanta this season too. The team expects him to be more prolific in front of goal,” Alwin finally said. “Personally, I hope he can take over the mantle from Sunil Chhetri and end up as the top goalscorer this season,” he added, his words reverberating faith.


That’s been there, always. Udanta has been always been expected to fill the void that Chhetri, India’s leading goal scorer and living legend, would leave in the team — both club and country — once it’s time. How does the man himself deal with that burden of expectations? After all (people may forget this often, especially when they see him causing havoc among opposition defenders) he is just 24.

“I’ve always believed that the best way to deal with pressure, is by performing,” Udanta said when asked, “I don’t really read what the papers have to say about me, so if anyone criticizes me, I’m going to be the last one to know. I know that I have to perform at the highest level that I can for my club, and for my country, and I strive to do that regardless of what happens or what people say about me, outside the pitch.”

As much as the winger asserted, it’s easier said than done. But then again, he has shown the capability and mental fortitude on the pitch time and again. The first time he did that was back in 2015, against Indonesian club Persipura Jayapura, when he became the youngest Indian to score in the AFC Cup. Although in a damp prelude, that goal justified why BFC invested in Udanta’s talent.


From there on, it’s been a journey to remember

At first, when he had just joined the JSW-owned club, Udanta would use his speed to glide past players at will but that was the only trick in his book. Once the opposition teams caught sight of him, they began stopping him physically, pushing and shoving him off the ball.

He was effective at stretching the play off the bench and enjoyed some moments where everything clicked. His pace was frightening but the fact that there was little else to go with was the reason why he could not impact the game directly, in terms of goals and assists. A change in position, from striker to right-wing — which Westwood believed would be a better use of his pace — also took its toll.

After his first season at BFC, the club opted to send Udanta for a training stint at Oxford United. When he returned, he was a force to reckon with. If previously he was little frail, by the time he got back from Europe, the youngster had learned to use his body along with his eye-popping pace.

Udanta Singh during his initial days with the club (Photo: BFC Media)

“When he started off he would quite often get shrugged off the ball, but after his brief stint at Oxford United, he came back a completely different player,” Alwin said, “Everyone knew he had the pace. But after his stint, he was taking people on, using his body to shield the ball well and people were no longer shrugging him off. This was one of the biggest changes in Udanta’s playing style… his physical aspect of the game and ability to take people on. ”

Then came Alberto Roca. Under the Spanish coach, Udanta added consistency. He finally seemed to have made the right wing position his own and with that speed, he could cause nightmares for any defender in India. In his first season under Roca, the Manipur speedster found his footing in the first team and went on to find the back of the net three times. 

Roca’s persistence and Udanta’s outstanding work ethic proved to be key. “The best aspects of Udanta at training are that he’s always a 100% committed. You’ll see him smiling and having a little chuckle during training, but every take on, every cross, every defensive trackback is full of commitment and never half-hearted,” Alwin said.

Udanta Singh during a gym session (Photo: BFC Media)

‘Defensive trackback’ is a term that is seldom used in reference to attacking wingers. But, under Carles Cuadrat, Udanta has turned himself into a more rounded player. He can read better and can fall back to help his defence in times of need. On top of that, he can use his speed more effectively and most importantly, he appears to be more composed and decisive.

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve added a second dimension to my playing style where I’m falling back to defend and making myself useful in defensive situations and set pieces,” Udanta remarked, “This has helped me a lot, as a player, and it is one of the things that I’ve improved under Albert Roca, and now under Cuadrat.”

“The coach expects me to be able to contribute as much as possible in attack, and in defence. It’s important that even the attacking players drop deep to help out at the back, and we’ve managed to do that well over the last seasons. This has been key to our success."

The Asian dream with BFC


“This season, with Asian football also back, I need to make sure that I am fit and in form whenever the team needs me,” Udanta remarked as if speaking to himself.

There it was. Asian football. The Asian Champions League dream. Having already made their mark in the continent by becoming the first Indian club to make it to the finals of the AFC Cup back in 2016, Bengaluru FC’s eyes are no doubt on the lucrative Asian Champion League (ACL) playoff berth that are on offer for the Indian Super League (ISL) table toppers.

Udanta, popularly known as The Flash in the Indian football circuit, is, on his part, completely focused on being competitive and winning as a team — something that Cuadrat is an advocate of. To him, it’s much more important to finish on top of the table and guarantee an ACL spot as a team rather than hit personal landmarks.

“The message from the coach has always been to be as competitive as possible and to make sure that the team performs at a high level every season,” he said, “As a team, we have always been at the top and the ambition is to make sure that we remain there. Now, with the top spot in the League having an impact on our Asian journey, it is important that we continue to push ourselves to finish as high as possible, and then to try and win the title.”

Udanta with team analyst Alwin Lawrence at an event (Photo: BFC Media)

“As a footballer and an attacking player, the thing that gives you the most joy is scoring goals and celebrating those goals. But as you play more games, you realize that the most important thing is to win games. I may score three great goals, but if the team ends up on the losing side, then it goes in vain. For me, the most important thing is to contribute to a positive result. Whether that is by assisting, scoring or even dropping deep to defend, is secondary,” Udanta continued.

Alwin, at this point, chipped in, saying the attacker has the potential of becoming the best winger in Asia if he started producing goals along with everything else.

“The only area that Udanta would need to improve on is would be to start scoring more goals. Over the years at the club, his progression with regard to goals tally has been steady and on the rise. There are at least 2-3 occasions every game where he gets into great scoring positions, but ends up crossing the ball or looking for a teammate to pass to,” the analyst said, “He’d probably be one of the best wingers in Asia if he could start converting those chances to goals for both club and country.”

What did Udanta have to say about being the best in Asia? Nope, still no signs of overconfidence or attitude in his answer.

“I just want to keep improving and winning trophies with this club. As a footballer, nothing makes you happier than winning silverware and in the five seasons that I’ve spent here, I’ve played in some really big games and won titles as well. My ambition for the season is to get my hands on another cup, and to make sure that the club goes as far as it can in Asia,” he signed off.

The final piece may now finally fall into place for Udanta. For Indian football, that is an exciting prospect.

Next Story