My only aim is to represent the Indian National team for the second time – Shilton D’silva

It’s often said that football can be a cruel game; very few can attest to it better than Mohun Bagan Midfielder Shilton D’silva, whose once booming career was twice put on brakes because of injuries.

It’s often said that football can be a cruel game; very few can attest to it better than Mohun Bagan Midfielder Shilton D’silva, whose once booming career was twice put on brakes because of injuries. While most would have given up, Shilton has trudged on to get back on the playing field and is now once again chasing his dream.

Back in 2011, at the age of 19, having impressed everyone at youth level, Shilton was being touted as the next big thing. Starting his professional career at Mahindra United youth teams, Shilton climbed the ladder very quick going on to represent the country at U16, U19 and U23 within 3 years. He was handpicked by India’s then technical director Colm Toal himself and then fast tracked to senior national team in 2011. It seemed Shilton was destined for big things until an unexpected injury put a sudden stop to his booming career.

Being a very athletic kid, Shilton participated in a lot of sporting activities like karate, basketball, athletics and football. But out of all of these sports, football was the one that caught his interest, as shilton stated, “Football dragged my attention probably because it was in my genes as my father was a footballer too. Also watching my seniors in school playing the sport I was always very curious and attracted to learn the game and at that very moment I knew ‘Football it is!’”

Shilton first started playing football at the age of 8 for his school (St Pius, Mulund) and by the age of 13 he had represented Maharashtra at sub-junior nationals. He soon joined the youth team of then I League team Mahindra United, playing for their U15, U17 and then U19 team. It was during one of the Mahindra United exposure game in Goa against India U16 side that Indian football technical director Colm Toal spotted Shilton. He was soon asked to join the national team youth setup.

From there, it didn’t take Shilton long to make it to the Senior National team. Talking about his experience with National team, shilton states, “Representing India at a very young age was a dream come true for me. This was a major breakthrough in my career. I used to watch and learn from a lot of senior players but practicing on the same field and sharing the same dressing room with them was another experience all together.” Adding about his debut match again Chinese Taipei in AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, Shilton continues, “Words fell short to express the moment, when I stepped on that field. It was a moment of pride wearing the India jersey and playing for my country. I thank our coach Bob Houghton for believing in me and giving me that opportunity. “

Just when everything looked good, Shilton received a major blow in the form of injury. On 20 December 2011, playing for Pailan Arrows during a Federation Cup match against Mumbai, D’Silva suffered an ACL tear that lead him to miss the 2011–12 I-League season. Year later, a recovered Shilton looked set to be back in action, however as fate would have it during a friendly game against Mohammedan Sporting he suffered another freak injury that curtailed his comeback season even before it could take-off.

Talking about those dark moments of his life, Shilton recalled, “What hurt me the most was not the injuries but the gap in my career. It took me over a year to get back but not once did I think of quitting the game. Injuries are a part and parcel of any sport but it always makes the player come out stronger. Football is my first love and that keeps me going.”

Talking about his recovery, Shilton credited his family members, physiotherapist, Coach Colm Toal for playing a very important role in helping him get back once again. Further adding on the motivation to keep going despite the two career threatening injuries, Shilton revealed,”Self motivation is the key to my journey. After going through a lot in life with the injuries, every single day I motivate myself to not just get better but be the best.” For a player who has seen the various highs and lows in such a short span it didn’t come as a surprise when he said it didn’t idolize any one single player. “Can’t name just one but there have been many idols in my career, each one different in their own way but I always picked the best out of them.”

After a long time, Shilton’s footballing career has finally managed to get steady, a title winning season with Mohun Bagan becoming the much needed icing on the cake. “It was one of the best experiences of my career. The team knew from the very beginning that we were winning the title and we were all geared right from day 1.”

Crediting his coach, Shilton adds, “Our coach Kibu Vicuna also created a winning mentality amongst the entire team. We began with a good pre season, followed by the Kolkata league, Durand cup (runners up), then the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup (Semis) and all these were stepping stones to our I-league success. Overall this was a wonderful experience as it brought out the best of each player. Lifting the trophy was a cherry on the cake and we were lucky enough to win the title with 4 matches to go and cherish this success before the lockdown. Our coach Kibu Vicuna and his technical staff played a major role behind this success.”

Talking about the current Covid-19 Pandemic, Shilton says, “Firstly, my heart goes out to all the victims and those who are affected by this global pandemic in every different way. I was also stranded at Kolkata for 2 months and as soon as the flight resumed I boarded one and got back home to my family. We are all learning to live the new normal. I make sure that I workout once daily and apart from this I indulge in my new found hobby which is cooking, trying out some healthy and delicious dishes while continuing with the regular gaming, movies, series and a couple of household chores.”

With a career filled with both highs and lows, Shilton has only one thing on his mind for when football resumes, “My only aim going forward is to represent the Indian National team for the second time, its a work in progress for now.” For a talent that impressed the likes of Colm Toal, hopefully it doesn’t take long for him to be back on national team fold.

Also Read: Midfielder Chanso Horam pens a long term deal with Mumbai City FC

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