"People made fun of my dreams, but it motivated me to prove them wrong some day. And here I am."
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Hello again AP readers! I've got a real treat for you today. For those who may not remember, last summer I interviewed Brendan Keyes of the Texas Premier Soccer League. As we talked, he got me connected with Pratik Shinde. Pratik is a professional soccer player, who has spent time in the Indian Super League with Pune City FC. He took some time out of his day, training and playing with the Houston Hurricanes, to talk about his story, training, and life in general. Check it out.
Tell us a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what team you're playing for right now?
I am Pratik Shinde. I am a professional footballer from Mumbai, India. Right now I am playing for Houston Hurricanes FC in the Texas Premier Soccer League..
How did you come to be interested in soccer, and playing the game for a career?
I started playing soccer when I was in middle school with my friends in the neighborhood. I loved the game more than Cricket. And I was always dedicated and had big dreams for a kid who used to live in the slums. People made fun of my dreams, but it motivated me to prove them wrong some day. And here I am.
What are a couple of things about your hometown that we should know to understand your story as professional soccer player?
The best part about Mumbai (my hometown) or India, rather, I would say is that the craze for football is unprecedented. We have seen a sudden growth in the amount of people taking interest in the sport. Ever since the Indian Super League (ISL) started, which I was fortunate to be a part of, it has helped the kids to be trained at the grassroots level. I have been lucky that my journey as a footballer started at a time when the attention given to soccer was at its peak.
How were you involved in the Indian Super League? I think Brendan Keyes said you had played for Pune City, is that correct?
Yes, I played for FC Pune City in India. The offer came to me when I was still playing here in the US. It had always been my dream to play in my country at the highest level.
India has been coming into international view a lot more, especially with the proposed streamlining of the existing soccer leagues. A lot of people, here and in India, don't like it because of the lack of immediate top down promotion and relegation. Since you've actually played in India though, what do you make of the proposed changes?
The focus and attention that football has been getting in India now was not even thought of a decade ago. We shave to see a lot of growth in terms of training at grassroots level and in all other aspects. The level of football has changed in last few years and many international players are showing their interest. The Under 17 world cup hosted by India will make a big difference for Indian football for the future.
Brendan touched on your story a little bit when I interviewed him last summer. How did you two meet and wind up working together as player and coach?
I first met him in Sweden, where I represented India in the Gothia Cup. I had scored goals against foreign teams. That's when Brendan took notice of me, and then continued to be in touch with me after I came back to India. He offered me an opportunity to play for his team in US. So that's how my journey with him got kick started. He plays a major role in my football career.
What is the Gothia Cup?
The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest and most international youth football tournament. Each year, around 1600 teams from 80 nations take part and they play 4500 games on 110 fields.
This is a two part question. What does your average training day look like from start to finish in terms of diet, exercise, and preparation? And what does your average game day, start to finish, look like?
When I get up, I like to meditate for 20 minutes. It helps me be positive and I believe it helps you to get focused and fit mentally. Heals your pain and keeps you positive during the day.
I try to eat 5 meals a day. Small meals including enough fiber, carbs, protein and good fat. Plus multivitamins. To keep my weight balanced I do a lot of weights and high intensity workouts, which makes me lose a lot of weight. Eating the right food is very important for an athlete. I always make sure I eat right.
I like to do pre-activation before my training and games, which includes various exercises that help you activate the right muscles and warms you up correctly. It lowers the chances of injuries during sessions.
Most important part of all is REST. (recovery) I try to sleep at least 8 to 10 hours in a day. Sometimes I don't get enough sleep at night. But I try to recover it a few hours during the day if possible.
Match days are usually the same just with a lot of rest and more fluid intake to avoid cramps.
Do you have any game day traditions and or superstitions, or anything you do to help zero in and get focused?
I just make sure I meditate and pray before the game.
How has it been playing in different leagues, not just in different countries, but different continents? I imagine you've seen and experienced quite a bit, especially the difference between leagues.
I have been fortunate to have played in different countries. It's always a different experience. The approach and the intensity remains the same, only the infrastructure, technique and language changes from country to country.
What does your current role for the Houston Hurricanes look like? Are you primarily scoring goals, creating, or a little of both?
As Coach Keyes always tells me, Houston Hurricanes FC is my home away from home.
Houston Hurricanes is more than just a team to me as I am emotionally attached with the club and Coach Keyes. My role in the team is not just that of a striker or a midfielder. I am completely dedicated towards my team, which is also evident in my performance. I scored 3 goals with 2 assists in the last match, and also got the Man of the Match award. And the whole team has performed great. I believe if we all continue working hard and stick together as a team, we must win the league and Texas Cup. I hope to continue this throughout the season. Coach Keyes is like a father figure to me, and I always want to make him and my Hurricane family proud.
What are two lessons you've learned from success in your career, and two you've learned from set backs?
As they say a man can be best judged in his success and failure. Success has taught me to be more grounded and helped me to stay connected to my roots. Also, it has taught me that after every success the level of expectation is only going to increase and for that I have to push myself even harder.
The setbacks in my life have been very stressful. But one can either sail through them or drown, so I chose the former. The most important lesson I learned is that you have to fight your own battle, there is no point expecting people to help you. The other lesson is for myself, where I learned from all the mistakes I made and I consciously try not to make those mistakes again.
If you weren't a professional footballer, what would you be today?
I would be a chef or singer.
What's your favorite team and or league to watch for fun?
Favorite team is Manchester United and EPL.
Favorite players. One past, one present?
Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo.
If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be and why?
Paul Scholes because I've always tried to be like him on the filled. He is my inspiration.
Who's the toughest player you've ever played against?
Where can people find out more about you and keep track of your career?
Or all my official social media pages.
Facebook Pratik Shinde
Thanks again for your time Pratik. Good luck this season, looking forward to seeing how it goes. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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