Never realized that I would end up playing post 40 years of age: Dharmesh Patel

in a quick chat with footballcounter ONGC Veteran and Gujarat’s first I League player Dharmesh Patel spoke about his motivation in the game

ONGC has started out their MDFA Elite Division campaign with two back to back wins and looks well on their way to challenge defending champions Mumbai Customs for the title.

Post the game against Bank of India, in a quick chat with footballcounter ONGC Veteran and Gujarat’s first I League player Dharmesh Patel spoke about his motivation in the game, goals for the season, his advice for young footballers and few more.

Excerpts

  1. How did you get into football and How did you reach here?

I simply loved this sport from my childhood. My father always encouraged me to follow my heart & send me for the trials at SAI Gandhinagar where I eventually got selected. It is at SAI Gandhinagar where I was groomed & nurtured by our Coach Shri Mali. At the age of 16 I came to Mumbai & played for Madanpura Sports Club in the Mumbai league. At the age of 19 years I was scouted & recruited by ONGC at Vadodara after I came into the limelight by representing India Junior team in 1996.

ONGC gave me enormous opportunity & freedom to play this game at the highest level. I just enjoyed playing football every single day & simply took 1 day at a time, never realizing that I would end up playing post 40 years of age.

  1. What motivates you to still play the game at this age?

Passion for the game & love to inspire young players still drives me to play this game. My will power to fight & come back after major injuries like broken shin & fractured ribs has also been my forte. I think my vegetarian diet has also been a major factor for my longevity. The research also says that vegan diet can help elite athletes perform post their prime time.

  1. You played I league with ONGC back in 2011 and then rule change meant Institutions like ONGC, Air India could not field teams in I league. You stuck with ONGC, Do you think, things would have been different if that ruling had not come in?

Of course, PSU’s are the only institutions that have our own infrastructure & resources to develop this game. In the past PSU’s & Government institutions like Railways, Police, Customs, FCI, Services, BSF, etc groomed, developed players & organized major football tournaments across our country. We really don’t understand federation’s decision to omit PSU’s like air India, ONGC, HAL & Indian Bank from the I league citing AFC’s regulations, whereas Iran Army team, Singapore Port Trust & other PSU’s across Asia play in the AFC competitions regularly.

Also Read: Scottish club Rangers FC signs India International Bala Devi

  1. What is your goals for this season, is the club confident of challenging the title?

ONGC are the defending champions along with them, there are a couple of good teams like Air India, Union Bank, Income Tax, Century Rayon who are capable of challenging for the title. Every time we take the field, we always respect our opponents & try to challenge them, taking one match at a time.

ONGC is a huge organisation & our management has always supported us & given us the opportunity to work with extreme freedom & be the best in our respective fields. Although it is too early to say but with all due respect to our competitors, I believe we have the capability to challenge the title. There has been great enthusiasm among the boys and all are showing great eagerness & hunger to climb the ladder of success.

  1. What is your opinion of Indian football at this point?

I’m not very sure what the exact plans of AIFF for this merger are. Can there be any competition if there is no relegation or promotion? (Promotion -Relegation to be implemented in 2024/2025 season) If there is no competition in our top Indian leagues, can our best players, teams & even a national team improve, develop & progress?

  1. What advice would you give to young footballers of this generation?

Just enjoy this beautiful game. Take 1day at a time. Sleep, Rest, recovery & nutrition plays a major role in the performance of an athlete. You have to take these things very seriously, if you love any sport. Like Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “Once you bid farewell to discipline you say goodbye to success & performance.”

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