Saurav Gopalkrishnan, 23, who trained at the FC Malaga City Academy in Spain before playing for CD Almunecar City the Tercera Andaluza Granada division of Spanish football, has had quite a journey. Born in Dubai, he was a bit different than the other Indian kids his age. While most would be die-hard cricket fans, Saurav loved football.
“Initially, at a young age, I would play football at every given opportunity. Whether that was at school, on the streets or at home running around the living room with a ball at my feet and once I got into it, it was all I ever wanted to do,” recalls the young defender.
But soon it turned out to be more than just a hobby. He started playing the sport professionally in England, trained at Spain’s Malaga City Academy — an academy which has produced many international footballers.
Asked about his experiences of playing across Europe, the versatile defender replies “Being at the academy was a one of a kind experience for me. It was an opportunity that came about as a result of my stint in England. While at the academy, we played against the likes of Valencia, Villarreal, Almeria, Atletico Madrid and I was able to test myself against some of the best talent not only in Spain, but in the world. That was a real learning curve for me.
“From being a young boy with a love for the game, my journey so far has been wonderful, playing in England and Spain has allowed me to experience football of the highest level and I’ve learnt so much about myself and about life through it. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to play football professionally.”
Saurav, who is good at aerial duels and tackling, was called up by Indian Super League (ISL) club Kerala Blasters FC for trials in 2018. However, he did not make the cut for the final squad.
“As a professional, I’ve been a part of a few failures and setbacks, however with the never give up attitude instilled in me, I used them all as an opportunity to learn, continue improving and keep moving forward.
Nevertheless, it was a terrific experience for me, it was my first taste of Indian football. I had the opportunity to train and play with not only some of the best Indian players in the country, the likes of Sandesh Jhingan as well as top players such as Dimitar Berbatov, Iain Hume and Wes Brown. I learnt a lot during that period both on and off the pitch. The quality of football in India is very high,” he says.
Regarding his future goals, Saurav has his target set. “I want to play competitive football at the highest level and represent the Indian national team and make my mark on Indian football,” he says, “My focus currently is to continue improving every facet of my game while staying fit, sharp and ready for when football resumes.”