Exclusive: Hitesh Sharma – the energetic Hyderabad FC youngster

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Hitesh Sharma has been one of the crucial players for Hyderabad FC in their impressive fifth-place finish in their second-ever season in the Hero Indian Super League. Despite not reaching the knockouts, the Nizams offered a lot of hope and promise towards youth development in Indian football.

Sharma has been one of the standout performers last season alongside Liston Colaco, Chinglensana Singh and many others. The 23-year-old midfielder had made 61 appearances playing for Mumbai FC in the I-league, ATK and now, Hyderabad FC.

In an exclusive interview with Football Express, Hitesh discussed his professional career at the South Indian club, the hardships he faced as well as his maiden call-up to represent India in the AFC Asian qualifiers.

Hitesh Sharma keen on working hard to reach his best for representing India

Hitesh Sharma joined the Nizams after a three-year stint at record champions ATK. However, he was soon picked up in the Indian national team squad just after a season for the AFC Qualifiers. Here’s a question asked to him about his experience with the Blue Tigers.

After a productive domestic campaign you got a national team call-up in March, you also made your debut against UAE. What are your long-term ambitions? Can you tell us more about the atmosphere in the national camp and Stimac’s style of coaching?

“I don’t really want to think too far ahead. The situation in the National camp is always changing and I believe that I need to work hard and prove myself domestically first. We have qualified for the Asia Cup which is great and the progress needs to be step by step.”

However, UAE were too hot to handle as they thrashed India 6-0 on the courtesy of an Ali Mabkhout hat-trick. It was indeed a difficult debut for the youngster. However, India qualified to the Round 3 of AFC Asia Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Bangladesh.

Hitesh Sharma about his injury-ridden career and lockdown workout

The Jalandhar native had many injuries during his professional career and he also didn’t play the entire 2019-20 season due to injuries. Additionally, he also suffered injuries during his early days at Mumbai FC in the I-league. But post-lockdown and after a superb season in the ISL, things are starting to look better!

What are the training/ fitness regimes you follow to keep up in this lockdown COVID situation

“I try and follow all the training programmes given to us by our coaches. I also try and help my parents, which is kind of a workout. “

The world of football was stunned as there was no football for at least six months and if any, matches were played behind closed doors. However, many footballers got a better chance to improve their fitness after multiple gym sessions at home.

You had quite an injury-riddled career so far, how difficult is it to cope with it at a tender age and how can one develop a mentality to come back even stronger?

“I do not believe in complaining and have never done that my whole life. I believe that there is a process in life. You have good days and bad days as a person but I don’t like to say it out because even the bad days have taught me a lot. I could have easily sulked about my situations or I can focus on things that I want to do. Mentally, I would rather choose the latter.”

Hitesh Sharma speaks about Manuel Roca – the mastermind at nurturing talented youngsters

Manuel Marquez Roca took charge of the Nizams after Alberto Roca left for FC Barcelona as their fitness coach. However, he moulded a new philosophy and a new playing style that could keep football fans always glued to the TV! Here’s the question about the gaffer –

We all have heard a lot about coach Manolo Marquez’ man-management and having a good record at nurturing young talents, he had a positive impact on the squad last season. Can you give us some insights on his training modules, tactics and how much credit he deserves for your rise last year?

“Not just me, I have to say that a big reason for the consistent performance of our squad last season was the coaching staff and the credit goes to them. The atmosphere in the camp was so good that the 6 months we were together felt very short. Tactically, there is not much I can say. Our coach gives us roles and we try to perform them the best we can. It is important for Coach Manolo that we also enjoy our football, which makes a huge difference.”

After securing the deal of Akash Mishra, who is described as the Erling Haaland of India, the club looks ahead of its promising future. And Sharma is delighted about the young team Roca is building now.

How are you feeling about the young core in place at Hyderabad camp ahead of the upcoming ISL season?

“I am really excited with the core of youngsters currently at Hyderabad FC. We have a good mix of youngsters and senior players along with a very good coaching staff and I am really happy with my current team.”

Surprisingly, in addition, we had another related question to ask him –

Which player do you think is a hidden gem in Hyderabad’s youth setup or reserve team who can be a breakout star in the next year’s ISL campaign?

“There are many names at the club like Rohit Danu but we should let them focus on improving their skill and wait till they turn into superstars before talking about them.”

Rohit Danu joined Hyderabad FC from the I-league side Indian Arrows last year. The 19-year-old forward is well known for his dribbling ability and maturity even at such a young age. Danu had superb spells with the India U-17 and U-19 teams and would be keen on playing at a higher level. He could certainly be one for the future!

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