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At 21, Vinit Rai mature enough to shoulder midfield burden for Odisha FC
Assam-born professional footballer Vinit Rai is part of a new generation of talented midfielders in India. He has been a mainstay in midfield for Delhi Dynamos in the last two seasons of Hero Indian Super League and is now part of Odisha FC.
At 21, Vinit has already made a name for himself with a career that seems so long, yet in the real sense, he has only started with plenty to look forward to. That happens when you have been playing top-flight football from the age of 15.
“At the beginning, I did not get many chances to play at the clubs I was in. But I am thankful and grateful to Odisha FC now. I have grown as a player here. I thank the coaches for putting their trust in me and I am hoping to deliver more performances in the future,” said Vinit.
For Vinit, it all started with a couple of appearances for Dempo in the I-League during the 2014-15 season. His first ISL stint came in 2016 with Kerala Blasters FC, before he hopped over to Minerva Punjab and later Delhi Dynamos.
Since joining Delhi, he has played regularly for the first team and found his feet in midfield, a place he truly belongs. He is one of the league’s pass masters, averaging more than 40 passes per game with an accuracy of 82.45 per cent despite missing out on regular first-team minutes initially. Having clocked more than 2000 minutes in the league so far, Vinit is hoping to continue his growth with Odisha.
“Midfielders have transitioned fast. I think nowadays we are more comfortable on the ball and the credit goes to ISL, for providing the setup and bringing good coaches…We are fortunate enough to train under such coaches and play alongside good players. It helps us to learn new things which we can apply to our game. I just love to have the ball all the time, so I can be more involved in the game,” said Vinit.
India national team boss Igor Stimac prefers players who can use the ball well in midfield and Vinit being one among them has had the chance to impress the Croatian coach. Vinit was handpicked for the coach’s first press meet after joining the India team.
“I was a bit surprised to see that, but I am very grateful to him that he has been giving me chances since he has arrived. I made my senior debut under him and I am working hard to prove my worth to him,” said Vinit, a graduate of the famed Tata Football Academy.