Kerala Blasters’ new 17-year-old signing wants to replicate Sahal Abdul Samad’s path to the first team…
The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in India was a huge success in terms of popularity and such global events are always an inspiration for a lot of youngsters to take up football as a career. Calicut-born Zayed Bin Waleed was one such aspirant.
A hopeful Zayed attended trials for the India U-17 team when they held it in the UAE, where he has spent the last 10 years of his life. He missed out as he was born on April 16, 2002, and was deemed too young. Things could have turned out differently for Zayed if he had stopped trying after that. But the young kid and his football-loving dad had other ideas.
The father-son duo follows Barcelona religiously and have developed a special bond thanks to football. It was Zayed’s father who spotted his talent at an early age and took him to the Manchester United Academy in the UAE.
From there, he joined the Manchester City academy and was called up to their developmental squad. Later, he joined the Al Ethihad Sports Academy, where he met Sahal Abdul Samad who was his senior. The passion for football that his dad cultivated helped Zayed get into the Du LaLiga High-Performance Centre (HPC). They helped the teenager further explore his talent.
Zayed is a midfielder who is comfortable with the ball at his feet and can play all across the attacking band of three. After his 12th grade was completed, he signed up with a football agency and he attracted interest from ISL clubs Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters and I-League side Indian Arrows.
The Kerala-born player chose to return home and return to his roots despite Jamshedpur’s offer and an opportunity for a trial at Arrows. After having faced flak for not fielding Kerala-born players, the signing of Zayed was a welcome move by Blasters. This is only a part of the long-term vision of the Kochi-based club which hopes to develop young talent at a grand scale in the coming years.
Because he has had to travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai for four days a week for training, Zayed said he has not been able to watch Kerala Blasters but he has followed the club’s results.
“I have watched Kerala Blasters and supported them, it is my home state after all. That affinity was always there. If you had asked me four years back to choose a team to play in ISL, I would have chosen Kerala Blasters. Development-wise, it will be good for me.They have shown that they care about my future development to be the best player that I can be,” he told Goal.
“A few months ago during the Asian Cup in UAE, I went to see India play. It was amazing, Watching the stars of the national team play was something else.”
He is looking forward to playing games with the reserve team soon. He wants to work hard and climb the ladder, like how former Al Ethihad academy mate Sahal Abdul Samad pulled it off.
“I will probably start with the reserve team and I will work my way up. I will work hard. I hope to replicate the footsteps of Sahal, the way he got into the first team. I will look up to Sandesh Jhingan, he is a leader. I watched him against Thailand, he was phenomenal.”
Zayed knows things haven’t been rosy for the senior team in the last two seasons. But when there is a will, there is always a way. And the fans’ support will be of great help as they try to get back to the top.
“I am sure this season will be much better and we will go back to being on the top like we have done in the previous seasons.
“The fans’ response (to my arrival) has been overwhelming, they are supportive and they want to know a lot. I have decided to remain reserved because I have a long way to go. I love the fans, my dad always says Kerala Blasters have the most passionate fans in the ISL,” he concluded.