Sumit Rathi is an Indian Footballer who has represented India in the Under-14 AFC Festival Tournament, Under-16 AFC Qualifiers, Under-17 World Cup Squad as well as the Valentin Granatkin Memorial Football Tournament in Russia. He has also visited Spain, Germany, Iran, Australia, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Austria, and Nepal in keeping with the exposure tour. Born in August’01, Sumit served as the captain to the U-16 Indian National Football Team in 2016. He enjoys indulging in photography whenever time permits, savors North Indian delicacies, and would rather stay in and hit the gym than go out and party!
At what age did you realise your potential? Tell us about your journey till date, and your future goals.
I’ve been very passionate about all forms of sports since childhood. In third grade, my life took a turn for the better upon meeting D.A.V school’s sports teachers. Seeing me excel at other sports, they pushed me to play for the school team even though I knew nothing about football. Initially, it was difficult to maintain the sports-academics balance but I had gotten so vested in the sport that I never tired of playing. A few months later, I came to know of the coveted Chandigarh Football Academy. From that moment forth I made it my goal to get in and practiced diligently. Unfortunately, the trials were postponed.
Next time I went to Chandigarh, I was under pressure as my family had advised me to hang up my boots and divert all efforts to my education if I were unable to crack the trials. I cracked the trials and signed a 7-year contract with the academy. It was less of a contract than a testament to my belief that one can achieve anything as long as they believe in themselves.
Soon after, I was selected for the U-14 Chandigarh National Football Team; we won the championship in Mumbai, where I was awarded the title of ‘Best Player of the Tournament’. Two years later, I got selected for the U-17 Football National Team — the first team from India to play in the Football World Cup which gave a huge boost to my career. Football has given me a new perspective in life, and this would not have been possible without my family’s and my coaches’ unconditional support.
What motivates you to get up and train every day?
Each night when I hit the bed, and every morning when I wake up, I am grateful to God for giving me another day in this beautiful world. Every day, I strive to better myself and make the country proud by becoming a better sportsperson and fulfill all of my mother’s hopes and dreams.
How does the team motivate each other at half time when you are behind the scoreline? What’s the dressing room morale like?
It all comes down to the team we are playing against. If we are behind the score-line, we usually have a plan to tackle the situation and if not, we discuss it player-to-player. Sometimes, the coach changes the player if the strategy isn’t working out. At such a crucial time in the game, we all try to motivate and hype each other internally while the coaches do the same from the outside.
Which sports icon has influenced you the most? What quality of hers/his do you wish to imbibe in yourself and why?
Sergio Ramos from Spain is one of the players that I look up to. I admire his aggression and attitude on the field; how he displays raw hunger to win every match he plays. Sometimes it’s not about who has the more natural talent or technical skill, it’s about who’s hungrier to win!
What do you do in your off time?
I play football! As much as I have chosen professional football as my career, It is first and foremost my passion. I don’t believe that a player can actually take time off from the sport, there is always room for improvement. However, I love watching movies, listening to music, practicing yoga and hitting the gym whenever I feel like unwinding.