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Football

'Want to be known by my own name': SAFF U-20 star Himanshu Jangra dislikes Sunil Chhetri comparisons

Youngster Himanshu Jangra played an important role in India's SAFF U-20 Championship 2022 title win. He speaks to The Bridge about his career till now.

Want to be known by my own name: SAFF U-20 star Himanshu Jangra dislikes Sunil Chhetri comparisons
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Himanshu Jangra in action at the SAFF U-20 Championship 2022.

By

Rajdeep Saha

Updated: 2022-08-28T19:06:32+05:30

The U-20 boys of the Indian football team powered their way through to the SAFF U-20 Championship title after beating Bangladesh in a 5-2 thriller in the final. While the boys in blue certainly played as a unit throughout the competition, there were glimpses of individual brilliance shown by some.

18-year-old Himanshu Jangra is one of them. The forward is now a part of East Bengal and came on as a substitute in the Kolkata derby against Mohun Bagan in the Durand Cup on Sunday, August 28.

Hailing from Haryana, Jangra, like most of his teammates, had been introduced to the beautiful game via the television screen.

"When I used to watch Neymar on TV, I got invested in his style and personality. Slowly seeing children play in parks, I too got interested in football," the teenager recalled.

It was with Minerva Academy FC that Himanshu started his professional career.

"I was selected by the club after giving trials at the U-13 level. Then I played in the junior I-league, U-15s, had a short stint at Mohammedan SC, and came back here," Jangra said on his career path till now.

Currently, he plies his trade for Delhi FC which plays in the Delhi Premier League. The club signed a partnership with Minerva Academy in 2020, which explains Jangra's presence at the Delhi outfit.

At the national level, the Neymar admirer had worked his way up to get a call-up for the SAFF tournament that recently concluded.

"Maybe the coach saw me there (at the national camps), or noticed me at the senior I-league, which might have resulted in me getting a call," the teen said.

Albeit quite soft-spoken on the phone, Himanshu is certainly a tough cookie on the pitch. Despite suffering from a slight ankle niggle, Jangra was able to score three goals and register three assists in the tournament.

Apart from the Delhi FC player, Parthib Gogoi and Gurkirat Singh were two shining stars in the young Indian team. Himanshu was seen forming almost a psychic connection with Gogoi and Singh.

"I played with them for the first time in the SAFF Championship while they knew each other from their days together at Indian Arrows. Yes, our relationship off the pitch is very good which shows on the pitch. If the understanding is good between each other then the link-up play comes naturally," the Haryana local said.

Himanshu was the only Indian youngster to feature in The Guardian's 'Next Generation' list of footballers in 2021.

In that article, he was suggested to be the eventual replacement of a certain Sunil Chhetri. "I do feel a certain amount of pride when people compare me to such a big player, but I don't like the comparison. I don't feel any pressure as such and keep playing my game, but like everyone, I want people to know me by my name," Jangra explained.

When asked about his and the team's mood after their title win, the footballer said with the same maturity he showed on the pitch, "Yes, we are happy but we have already turned our focus towards the Asian Cup."

India has been drawn with a tough group of nations, namely Iraq, Kuwait, and Australia, for their AFC U-20 Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers, which will be held in September.

Just like the tournament just gone by, Himanshu will be rearing to play a pivotal role in India's charge to qualify for the Asian Cup and rub shoulders with the continent's best.

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