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Last Updated Sunday August 19 2018 02:14 AM IST

Manorama Sports Star 2017: KP Rahul's exploits on soccer pitch

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K.P. Rahul K.P. Rahul

Kottayam: Kannoly Praveen Rahul’s name is already etched in the record books for being the lone Keralite in the national squad for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, hosted by India last year. Justifying his selection, this boy from Thrissur, who is one of the six finalists for the Manorama Sports Star 2017 Award, showed nerve and character throughout the tournament, and that powerful volley from outside the box in the crucial tie against Colombia will certainly be remembered for a long time.

The left-winger, who now plays for Indian Arrows, a team consisting of national U-17 and U-19 players brought together by the All Indian Football Federation to compete in the I-League, has so far banged in two goals and one of them was truly world class.

Lucky number

For Rahul, 17 has been a magical number. It was in 2017 his fortunes changed dramatically. Though he had been a regular at the national U-17 squad’s preparatory camps for the past three years, his place in the team was confirmed only in 2017. Rahul’s scoring ability was on display when he found the back of the net against an Italian age-group team in a practice match. The call-up to the final squad was a reward for his consistent performance in practice matches in India and abroad ahead of the FIFA competition. 

In the U-17 World Cup, Rahul, donning his favorite No.17 jersey, featured in the matches against the USA, Colombia, and Ghana. Though India lost all of them, Rahul stood out with some eye-catching performances. Despite being assigned defensive duties, he was seen breaking with explosive pace on the counter frequently and unleashing a couple of spectacular shots on goal. One such attempt against Colombia went outside almost kissing the crosspiece. 

A live-wire on the pitch

Indian Arrows have been giving the rival teams, with experienced and physically superior players, a run for their money in the I-League, and Rahul, with his deft first touches and rapid pace, has displayed all the traits of an ideal winger. The youngster’s scorching speed combined with his tricky and unpredictable movement to feed the ball to strikers have always posed as a nightmare to opposing defenses.

The two goals by Rahul, who will turn 18 next month, in the I-League came against Shillong Lajong FC and Mohun Bagan. His exceptional dribbling skills were on display in the goal against Bagan, while against Shillong Lajong, he netted a scorching long-range effort in the injury time. 

“I’m extremely happy about my performances last year. I don’t want to rue the missed chances or be overjoyed with my achievements. I’m glad to see all my hard work paying dividends. Everything that is happening now, I am taking as a bonus. I thank everyone who supported and prayed for me. I’m looking forward to play in the 2019 U-20 FIFA World Cup,” Rahul said. 

Never-say-die attitude

Son of Kannoly Praveen and Bindu, who hail from Ollukkara, a sleepy village in Thrissur district, Rahul started playing the game at the age of seven. His uncle Pradeep was the one who spotted the innate talent in the lad and took him to the training center run by M Peethambaran, former Kerala Santosh Trophy coach. 

Later he joined the Sports and Educational Trust’s (SEPT) center at Parappur and eventually got selected to the District U-14 team and then the state team. About a month after returning to Kerala from the U-14 Nationals, he received a message to report to the selection camp in Goa for the U-17 World Cup. 

Rahul, who was part of the ‘B’ team at the camp initially, was later promoted to the main XI by India U-17 football team head coach Luis Norton de Matos. His selection to the 22-member final squad for the World Cup was a reward for his unrelenting work ethic and positive attitude.

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