ISL 2021: Hyderabad FC’s Ashish Rai reveals “I-League experience helped me to get ISL success”

ISL 2021: Hyderabad FC’s Ashish Rai reveals “I-League experience helped me to get ISL success”:Currently in his second season in the ISL with Hyderabad FC, 21-year-old full-back Asish Rai has caught the eye this season with his excellent performances down the right flank.

The former Indian Arrows cadet has emerged as an assured presence in both defence and attack for the Hyderabad side in the last two seasons. Rai said that his two-year stint in the I-League with the Arrows has helped him gain confidence for the ISL challenge.

“Coming to the ISL was a challenge but I drew motivation from my two seasons with the Indian Arrows in the I-League, where I got so much game time and learned how to play at the senior level against top opposition. We got a lot of opportunities to work on our game and develop with the Arrows, and we improved a lot as individuals and as a team. It was the perfect platform for an emerging player like me and really made me confident in my abilities,” AIFF’s official website quoted Rai as saying.

In his debut season, Rai made just nine appearances for the Arrows in the 2017-18 I-League but in the following campaign, he featured in all 20 matches and became a permanent fixture in the right full-back position as the team picked up 21 points to finish eighth on the points table.

He quipped, “The first season at the professional level was a real challenge and it was taking time for us to come into our rhythms. However, in the second season, the team was shaping up really well as we became more mature and understood each other’s games in a better manner.”

The youngster, who hails from Pakyong in Sikkim, is a key member of the youthful Indian core of players at Hyderabad FC who have set the league alight and it also features left full-back Akash Mishra, who was Rai’s teammate at the Arrows. The two young guns have formed a formidable partnership on either side of their team’s defence and have played every game in the ISL so far, which is a testament to their consistency.

Two of his former Arrows colleagues — Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Narender Gahlot — have already made their Blue Tigers debut and Rai hopes that he will follow their lead and can fulfill his ‘dream’ of representing the senior national team in the coming years.

“I like to focus only on my next match and not get too ahead of myself. To play for the senior national team is something that every player dreams about and it makes me really happy to see Narender and Amarjit play at that level. I feel really proud since we are all very good friends and I hope to give my all in every game and hopefully, fulfill that Blue Tigers dream in the future,” Rai asserted.