The return of Indian footballing phenom Pratik Shinde is big news in India and here in the Texas Premier Soccer League (TPSL).
The attack-minded Shinde finds himself back in the United States, back where it all began in Texas. Less than two years ago Shinde became the youngest Indian player to play abroad when he signed with the NPSL’s Galveston Pirate. Today he returns as a member of the Houston Hurricanes FC, a team that performed well in the NPSL and is a charter member of the all-new TPSL.
Shinde is a player weighted with expectations and pressure to represent his country on the pitch. Every pass, every goal, every appearance will be closely watch as he is truly a pioneer for his country and his beloved sport.
“A lot of kids follow me back in India,” Shinde commented. “I want to inspire them.”
The young Shinde, who recently turned 18, has a lofty goal of playing professionally, either in MLS or overseas in Europe. He readily admits he is a fan of Manchester United and the legendary Paul Scholes. Not a bad choice as the Salford, England native went on to over 700 appearances and 150+ goals with the Red Devils, the only team he every played for.
It has certainly been a long journey and a lot of hard work for Shinde to get to this point. A 28-hour plane ride got him back to the Lone Star State, but it was the two years of hard training that prepared him for the upcoming season with the Hurricanes.
None of which would even be possible without the generosity and support of Hurricanes Head Coach Brendan Keyes and his family.
“I would like to thank Coach Keyes for this opportunity,” Shinde added. “It’s a great feeling being here. I’m motivated. I’m excited. I’m really ready.”
Their relationship began with Keyes scouting the young Indian player dominate at Sweden’s Gothia Cup, one of the largest youth tournaments in the world. The rest is history.
He is expected to make an impact in Houston as either an attacking midfielder or a second striker. Shinde admits that he can make moves and plays on his own, but his unselfish nature helps create opportunities and space for his teammates. His ability is best described as gamechanging; he is a player to watch for.
Shinde’s goals are simple and certainly attainable: make the starting XI and help his teammates win the inaugural TPSL title. And hopefully that will take him to the next level.
His success will certainly make headlines in India, a nation that is an emerging soccer market. Soccer has great potential there with a massive population and an ever-growing middle class. Shinde knows the future is bright, but not without obstacles along the way.
“India has good players. I see a lot of good young players coming up through the U-15s and U-19s.”
But he also admits that the senior national team and professional clubs need more support. Shinde points to the development of soccer facilities and a larger fan base as two priorities moving forward in his home country.
But first he has to help his new team win hardware in the TPSL, hopefully earning a chance to qualify for the U.S. Open Cup. This would allow more American coaches and scouts to see the gifted young player that is the pride of Indian football.
Perhaps Shinde can follow legendary Indian striker Sunil Chhetri to MLS. That would certainly be a huge step forward for the Indian game as a whole.