It’s not always that Dhanraj Pillay lavishes praise on a young hockey player. He fears that too much praise can affect a youngster’s concentration.
However, even he could not hold back his compliments for junior India striker Affan Yousof, who finished among the top scorers of the 3rd Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia with four goals to his name. India beat Malaysia 3-0 in the final on Sunday.
Pillay was in fact, instrumental in giving Affan a first-team spot for Air-India in the 3rd Hockey India Sr National Championships in Pune earlier this year.
“Affan is a promising talent and has been around for a couple of yours now, but unfortunately, somehow he initially missed the selectors’ eyes. He represented Indian Oil but failed to make it to their playing XI.
He then approached me and I immediately picked him to play for Air-India in the nationals. We won that title and he emerged as the Best Player in his first ever national championships,” Air-India chief coach Pillay, told MiD DAY yesterday.
Now Pillay is not one to afford a first-team spot to anyone and everyone, but 19-year-old Affan is special. “The first time I saw Affan was in the Obaidullah Gold Cup two years ago, when he was representing the Sports Authority of India, Bhopal.
I don’t recall whom they were playing against, but I remember seeing him receive a ball near the half-line and storm ahead beating four players before unleashing a fine reverse hit into the bottom corner of the goal.
I immediately knew this kid was good. And fortunately, he turned out to be our senior striker Sameer Dad’s nephew. So we got him into our team,” added the former India captain and four-time Olympian.
Pillay now has high hopes from the young Bhopal lad. “There are some important junior tournaments coming up including the all-important FIH Junior World Cup in Delhi (6-15 December 2013).
Affan need not look too far for inspiration too. He’s got to simply look at what his chacha Sameer has achieved. If he can continue in his footsteps, and also keep his head on his shoulders, I have no doubt he can go on to become one of the country’s most promising strikers,” Pillay (45) signed off.