“Made use of whatever resources we had” – Samuel Kynshi looks back at Indian football team’s sojourn in Asian Games 2023

Oct 16, 2023 | Interview

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With the Asian Games 2023 falling outside of the FIFA international window, plenty of Indian Super League (ISL) clubs were reluctant to release their first-choice players. For Igor Stimac and the rest of the stakeholders in the national team, it was a massive headache, given the humongous expectations resting on their shoulders.

But it was a silver lining for players hovering on the fringes of the national team setup. Samuel Kynshi was definitely one of them. The 23-year-old, who has the ability to slot into multiple positions, impressed heavily in the Real Kashmir outfit last season and was straight away snapped up by Punjab FC ahead of their maiden ISL campaign. His selection in the squad for the Asiad meant, India’s head coach too was following his meteoric rise.

The Blue Tigers landed in Hangzhou, China, just on the eve of their opening match against the hosts. Without any training sessions and clearly still recovering from the ill-planned travel, India went on to suffer a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the hosts. But irrespective of the result, for Kynshi, September 19, was a fated night as the youngster from Meghalaya would go on to make his debut off the bench for the national team.

However, India managed to crawl out of the group stages, thanks to their narrow victory against Bangladesh and a 1-1 draw against Myanmar, where Samuel Kynshi eventually made his full debut.

Although the Blue Tigers qualified out of the group stages for the first time since 2010, their performances didn’t garner widespread plaudits. Without an iota of doubt, the rustiness of the players could be attributed to the lack of proper training.

But Kynshi, during an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, highlighted that irrespective of all the hurdles the players representing the country in the continental competition delivered their best efforts.

“Always, there are challenges in the game. Instead of giving out any excuses, the whole team made use of whatever resources we had and did our very best,” the youngster said.

Ultimately, the Blue Tigers bowed out of the tournament with an expected defeat against a well-drilled Saudi Arabia outfit. For Samuel Kynshi, however, it was a watershed moment in his short career. But now, he aims to quickly shift his focus to the ISL campaign with Punjab, who haven’t particularly had the brightest start to their life in the top tier.

Excerpts from Sportskeeda‘s interview with Punjab FC midfielder Samuel Kynshi where the 23-year-old delved deep into the Asian Games 2023, the experience of sharing a dressing room with Sunil Chhetri, and the support from Igor Stimac.

Question: Samuel, firstly massive congratulations on your maiden selection in India’s squad. Could you narrate your reaction when you heard the news of your selection in the Asian Games squad?

Samuel Kynshi: It was, of course, a happy and emotional feeling that brought a sense of pride to me as soon as I saw my name on the list. It is the dream of every footballer to represent the national team and it was really a great moment for me to realize this dream.

Q: What does representing India in the Asian Games mean to you and your family?

Samuel: As I said, it’s always a dream of every sportsperson to represent their country. And to be a part of the national team in the Asian Games really was a feeling of pride for me and my family.

Q: Getting into the national team setup meant you were able to rub shoulders with some of the finest players in the country. If you could talk about the experience of sharing the dressing room with the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan?

Samuel: They are complete professionals and as a young player, you can learn a lot by observing such players like Chhetri Bhai and Sandesh Bhai who have been consistent performers for both club and country. And it was a pleasure for me to share the dressing room with them.

Q: What have been your interactions with head coach Igor Stimac like and what was his message and advice to you during this period?

Samuel: Coach Igor is very helpful, and he constantly keeps motivating all the players. Everyone in the coaching staff gave me tips on how to improve myself and where I have to work hard to keep on improving and get better.

Q: The trust that the national team head coach showed in you during these matches, how has it helped your confidence?

Samuel: Every young player needs support and it’s always a great feeling when a coach shows trust in you as it motivates you to do well and push yourself more.

Q: Samuel, how do you look back at the Asian Games as a team and also from a personal point of view?

Samuel: Everyone on the team gave their absolute best and worked incredibly hard to do well. For me personally, it was a great learning experience that has helped me understand many things and will certainly help me become a better footballer in the future.

Q: We heard a lot of insights about the team participating in the tournament without any preparation camp or training sessions. Could you describe to us how difficult the whole Asiad was in terms of preparation? And could the team have performed better with a proper camp?

Samuel: Always, there are challenges in the game. Instead of giving out any excuses, the whole team made use of whatever resources we had and did our very best. Every single player and staff member worked hard throughout the campaign and made sure that we gave our best in all of the matches.

Q: Playing against Saudi Arabia, could you talk about the experience? They have several world-class talents in their team, so did you get to learn a lot from the game?

Samuel: Saudi Arabia is one of the best footballing nations in Asia. They are regular in the World Cup and have started to bring superstars to their domestic league. Of course, it was a great experience playing against such a great quality team and that experience really helps you in understanding the elite level of football and grow.

Q: Could you also talk a bit about your footballing journey right from the very beginning until now?

Samuel: I started playing football at my local academy back home, named Little Star Academy. From there, I went on to play for Nangkiew Irat in their U-14 age group team and then I joined Shillong Lajong in the year 2015, where I represented different age groups. Lajong gave me the opportunity to be part of their senior team and I played for The Reds’ I-League team for two seasons. I was then part of Real Kashmir for three years for their I-League team and now here I am, a part of Punjab FC in the ISL.

Q: The past few months have been incredible for you, Samuel. Firstly, your tremendous campaign in the I-League, then being signed by an ISL club over the summer, and now going on to represent the country in the Asian Games. How do you look back at this period?

Samuel: It has been a great learning period for me, which has helped me mature as a player, but I still have a long way to go. I know I have to work hard to improve a lot and be a better player in the near future.

Q: Samuel, now that you’re back, you’ll have to quickly shift your focus to Punjab FC’s ISL campaign. The team haven’t started very well with two straight losses and a draw but what are your expectations from the season?

Samuel: This is our first season in the ISL. Everyone at the club has worked incredibly hard and I have full faith in the team that we will do well going forward and I will do my best to help the team in every way I can.

Q: How different and difficult will the ISL challenge be and are you prepared to take it head-on?

Samuel: Every level has its challenges and when you reach the top tier, of course, you have to adapt and push yourself to do well. It’s a challenge but that’s what a football player always wants to excel.

Q: Now that you’ve had the taste of representing the country at a grand stage, is the AFC Asian Cup a competition you’re targeting to break into the national team setup?

Samuel: Of course, it’s a dream for any Indian footballer as it’s the highest level of international football in Asia and to play in this competition is a great honor. I have to do a lot more and work very hard to perform better and right now, I am focused with my team Punjab FC, and working towards our goal.

Q: Finally, what are your personal goals for the ongoing season?

Samuel: I want to do well for the team and contribute as much as I can to help the team do well and achieve the targets, as well as improve myself as a player during the season and compete for all the remaining games.

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