Boris Singh has steadily matured as a player since he led Manipur to the U14 national championship title in 2013. He has represented India in the AFC U16 Championship and subsequently at the world stage when the country hosted the U17 World Cup in 2017.
However, from a very young age, he has learnt that failures will teach you more than success. He was rejected by the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Elite Academy when he first appeared for trials. But a more chastening incident took place in the AFC U16 Championship match against Iran in Margao.
"It was the final group game and a do-or-die match. Their winger was about to skip past me and I stick my foot out. I was shown a second yellow and was given the marching orders. I was not aware that a ban is carried forward in FIFA competitions.
"For that red card, I missed the opening match against USA in the World Cup. I was sitting in the stands and I could not hold back my tears. From that moment, I decided I am never going to be sent-off in my career," reminisced Singh to Goal.
At a tender age of 13, he had to leave the comforts of home to follow his passion for football. It was not easy for a child who had never before left his hamlet in Manipur, to criss-cross the country and take part in several trials and age-group tournaments. He was then called up to Goa for a trial by the Indian FA.
"AIFF Elite Academy happened to me at the right time. There were two teams, Team A and Team B. I was in Team B at first. There was Sajid Sir (Sajid Dar) and Bibiano Sir (Bibiano Fernandes). After a few weeks, there was another trial and I got into the A-team.
"In the academy, I learnt to be disciplined. It is very important for a player to lead a disciplined life to give his best on the pitch. Then comes the technical aspect. We focused on the basics like how to stick to a formation. Receiving the ball, passing, shooting and every basic thing. Those years helped me greatly."
Singh admits that reviving the Indian Arrows project was the best thing to happen for him as it allowed him to rub shoulders with senior footballers and quality overseas players. He also spoke highly of coach Luis Norton de Matos under whom he learnt a lot.
"The two seasons with the Indian Arrows was fantastic. That gave me confidence. At first, my heart used to beat so fast before a match, now I have learnt to remain calm before a match. Matos Sir helped me a lot. We have a strong mentality and even if we fell behind we did not give up.
"I run a lot. I learnt when to run and how much to run. It is of no use to run all throughout the field for no cause. He also told me to create an understanding with m winger so that I know when to overlap and when not to. He was a great coach."
However, his most cherished win came under the tutelage of Floyd Pinto in national colours when the India U20 team beat Argentina 2-1 in the COTIF tournament in Spain.
"Before the Argentina match, we were completely focused. In the team meeting, Floyd sir asked us not to fear them. We just needed to give our 100 per cent. And the goal by Deepak (Tangri) in the fourth minute gave us a lot of confidence. We had a red card in the second half but that also did not dampen our spirits," exclaimed Singh.
But his transition from a developmental team to a professional team has not been smooth. With ATK he has not featured in the Indian Super League (ISL) as coach Antonio Habas prefers more experienced campaigners like Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj in his position.
"I know I did not get many chances in ATK. I understand there are better players in the team. Prabir da (Prabir Das), Pritam Da (Pritam Kotal) are great players. But I train with full focus and I give my 100 per cent to impress the coach. The seniors also help me and they motivate me a lot. I am waiting for my opportunity. I will not get many chances but I intend to make the most of that one chance," said Singh with resolve.
Singh has always turned adversity into opportunity. He had not given up when he couldn't make it to the Elite Academy in the first attempt and neither he would today after a disappointing season. One chance, he says all that he needs to prove himself.