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‘Thoi Singh has a big future’: Bengaluru FC winger impresses foreign coaches

Indian players have been outplayed so far in the ongoing NextGen Cup - featuring West Ham, Everton, Wolves - but Thoi Singh is one of the few to have stood out.

‘Thoi Singh has a big future’: Bengaluru FC winger impresses foreign coaches

Thoi Singh with Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 19 May 2023 3:44 AM GMT

Navi Mumbai: When an 11-year-old Thoi Singh saw in the news that a football trial was going to be held in Imphal back in 2015, he brought a group of friends together to share the expenses of the 25-km auto ride. But as is often the case in Wangoi Makha Lakhai, his hometown in Manipur, where AFSPA was in place till as recently as two months ago, all of his friends backed out for various reasons. Thoi ended up going all alone, running the last few kilometres to save some money for the return journey.

Now seen as one of the most exciting talents in Indian football, Thoi is one of the few individual players to have impressed the foreign coaches who are here for the ongoing NextGen Cup, which features the youth teams of English Premier League sides Everton, West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Bengaluru FC struggled to create a single clear-cut chance in their 0-1 defeat to defending champions South African side Stellenbosch FC on Wednesday. But speaking after the match, their coach Evangelos Vellios told The Bridge, “BFC’s left winger Thoi Singh is a tricky player, he has a big future ahead of him. He played comfortably in tight spaces on the flank. Defender Harpreet Singh was also good, he did not give our striker much space.”

The Golden Ball winner of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL), the qualifying tournament for the NextGen Cup, Thoi Singh has an unorthodox playing style for an Indian winger.

“Indian wingers don’t like taking on 1v1 situations. As for me, I don’t like crossing without knowing what’s there in the box. I want to do well for my team, I want to play in the style of Eden Hazard or Neymar,” Thoi told The Bridge.

His favourite moment from the RFDL season was the rocket of a goal he scored against ATK Mohun Bagan in the semifinal - a goal Hazard or Neymar would be proud of.

The son of a farmer, Thoi has lived away from home for as long as he can remember. “Family is important, I miss them, but my focus is fully on football. I feel very bad about the violence happening in Manipur right now,” he said.

Scouted by the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) as part of its first batch back in 2015, Thoi has emerged as one of the flag bearers of this football academy which promises to revolutionise the grassroots of Indian football.

In the last few years, the RFYC has become the first residential academy based in India to get a Two-Star Academy status from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the first youth academy in India to be granted a 5-star rating by the AIFF.

Meanwhile, Thoi has become part of the first batch of players to graduate from the RFYC into the top levels of Indian football.

“Training with the Bengaluru FC first team is very different from the reserves team. There’s pressure in playing with all the big stars, practice sessions feel like games, there is no time to breathe,” Thoi said.

But he has won words of praise from even Sunil Chhetri for his attitude in training.

"The boy possesses the confidence and hunger to compete and not everyone brings that to the table at the first time of asking. You can come with all the talent you want, but if you don’t have the attitude to work hard to go with it, then it amounts to nothing," Chhetri said earlier.

Sivasakthi, one of the stars of the RFDL last season, has broken into the ISL side’s main team this season. Thoi now wants to follow that path and turn his RFDL success into a starting XI spot for Bengaluru FC in 2023/24.

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