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Remembering Jerry Zirsanga, India’s youngest international goalscorer

Remembering Jerry Zirsanga, India’s youngest international goalscorer

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 10 Feb 2021 10:03 AM GMT

Indian football is rife with tales of lost opportunities and careers fizzling out after much initial promise. One such story is that of Jerry Zirsanga. The midfielder from Aizawl in Mizoram turned a lot of heads when he arrived on the scene in the early 2000s, only to be lost in the crowd thereafter.

Now 33, Zirsanga became the youngest Indian goalscorer in November 2004 when he scored against Kuwait in a friendly. He was just 16 years and 311 days old when he achieved the feat. It was during Stephen Constantine’s first stint as India’s head coach when the youngster came on as a second-half substitute and equalized against a much stronger Kuwaiti side. A frail young boy at the time, Zirsanga’s speed and agility caught the Kuwaiti defenders by surprise as he helped India script a memorable comeback victory with Abhishek Yadav scoring the winner soon after.


In any European country, Zirsanga’s moment under the sun would have fetched him consistent support in his dream of making it as a top-level footballer. However, with Indian football fighting its own battle for relevance at the time, his career would soon take a downturn. The Tata Football Academy (TFA) product, who is the contemporary of more famous names like Subrata Pal and Gourmangi Singh, never really found his footing at any of the clubs that he played for.

After graduating from TFA, he joined Mohun Bagan’s youth team. Spells at Dempo, Prayag United SC, Churchill Brothers and Luangmual FC followed suit but none of these stints helped him realize his true potential. He eventually moved to Mohammedan Sporting ahead of the 2013-14 season but ended up featuring just seven times for the Black Panthers. That proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Zirsanga as he was left without a contract after that.

An inadequate grassroots structure was the first bane for the soft-spoken Mizo lad. Furthermore, the lack of a proper youth development system at the time meant that he had very few doors to knock on for guidance. This made it extremely difficult for him to work on his weaknesses away from the limelight. His short stature was another barrier that held him back in the pecking order for most of the coaches that he worked with. Be that as it may, it is indeed a tragedy that a prodigious talent like him failed to leave a lasting legacy after what was the brightest of starts to a short-lived career.

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