Aayushman Chaturvedi was last in the news for being picked for a Chelsea trial when he was 18. He will turn 21 in the month the Indian Super League's second season starts. Since the age of 17 though, he hasn't played a professional match in India. Despite that, he got picked up by Mohun Bagan on a four-year deal this year — following a season-long loan from parent club Ashoka Football Club. It has been quite an eventful few years for Aayushman — jetting between England and India in the search for regular football.
Indians may finally have the chance of watching him in action — the former Chelsea triallist has the lowest base price in the ISL draft list — Rs 1.20 lakhs; a number which has been affected by the lack of competitive football he played in his first season in Kolkata. "I was training with the first team under Sanjoy Sen and he constantly motivated me. Yes, there have been discussions on my future (especially after signing a new contract) role in the team. I did expect to play some football this season, but Bagan has a big squad. I certainly expect to be involved in the next [season]," Aayushman told Firstpost.
But what is his selling point? Why should teams gamble on a player who hasn't played over the last few months? "To be fair, I expect to get picked up for my foreign experience. Yes, I've not played enough football in India but I have experience and capability of playing in England, so that should help," he said.
Aayushman has just returned from a third stint in England — his travel and living in London this time was sponsored by someone he 'cannot name' as he prepared for the draft at the Jamie Lawrence Academy in Tooting — just a few miles away from David Beckham's academy in East London.
"Technique and physique — these are the two things that I've really picked up on during my time in England," Aayushman said.
The Delhi-born player, whose father is an ex-cricketer ("I had to sit down and tell him that I was taking up football, and not cricket"), got picked up by the Brooke House Academy for two years after his Chelsea trial and performed admirably.
In two seasons, Aayushman banged in 18 goals and eight assists in a combined 47 appearances. While he mostly played in the ECFA League (runners-up in his first season), he also won the U-18 Futsal Championship and played in the Conference Cup against academy teams of more popular teams like Blackpool and Aldershot.
Aayushman, who gets more joy in setting up goals than scoring them from his inverted winger position (a right-footer playing on the left side), believes that it was the futsal that really made a difference to his playing style.
"Futsal teaches you to protect the ball better, move faster, be more agile and have quick reflexes and thinking. I believe more kids in India should first be introduced to futsal before stepping up to bigger pitches," he said.
His biggest achievement though, remains playing at Stamford Bridge during his stint with Chelsea: "I'm a Chelsea fan and playing in that stadium was a dream come true — the eventual dream still remains to play in Europe like every other Indian player but to become a pro in England I need a work permit, so I had to come back to India where I had a successful trial with a big club like Bagan and got picked."
Aayushman talks about his career with utmost honesty. He admits that he faced difficulty adjusting to the pace and physicality of English football and that he needs to do more to be recognised as a player. He also understands the need to be fit and ready to go for the ISL pre-season — taking up a training stint while most other players on the draft enjoy off season.
Another bonus is his mindset — Aayushman is independent and hardly gets homesick. Adjustment doesn't seem to be an issue with him: "Between the ages of 17 and 20, I was hardly home. My parents came to drop me to England and once to drop me to Kolkata. In those years, I grew up without them — cooked too — and managed my life through the guidance of coaches," he said.
To sum it up, Aayushman adapts, has foreign experience, is a fast winger who is also comfortable as a No 10 — and has been awarded a four-year contract by the I-League champions just on the basis of his training performances. Sanjoy Sen is not someone who takes players lightly — and if he vouches for a player without seeing him in competitive action, it certainly means something.
At a base price of Rs 1.20 lakhs, Aayushman could become a huge steal for ISL clubs.
"I think I that price I am a very good prospect," he admits.
The ISL draft and auction is on 10 July.
The writer tweets @TheFalseNo9
Updated Date: Jul 07, 2015 15:02 PM