When Praneel Mukherjee kicked the ball from the halfway line, it bounced upward and reached its goal into the net, leaving him and everyone around in a state of initial shock followed by awe. After all, the 14-year old had just enacted what in the world of football is a rare feat. The ultimate goal.
Playing for the Murdoch University and Melville Football Club U15 team against Joondalup Football Club during a Division 1 League game, Praneel observed the goalkeeper, throughout the first half, had been intercepting most of the penetrating through balls by standing at the edge of the 18 yard box. Thus, he made an attempt at a long range shot in the first half which sailed wide.
In the second half, he intercepted the ball at the halfway line and taking a few steps towards the opposition goal, he let fly a long range shot from 45 yards out. The ball sailed half the field over the retreating goalkeeper to drop into the top left-hand corner of the goal.
It sparked frenzy. Teammates broke out in applause and opponents placed their hands on their heads. Not only was the shot tremendous, but the audacity and confidence by this 14-year old to even try such a long-range shot grabbed everyone’s attention.
“It is possibly one of the best goals scored at that age group on a full-sized football pitch,” says Ash, a proud father.
Praneel’s moment of greatness as a footballer at the Murdoch University Synthetic Sporting Fields that afternoon in Perth is what every sportsman worth his salt would remember for life. By his own telling, “It’s pretty much like a once in a lifetime thing. And you can’t practice stuff like that, it’s what happens in a game. To be honest, we were all just shocked and we were all confused as to how the ball went in.”
Ash says, “Very few people worldwide have been able to score goals from near the halfway line. It is a big thing. If you speak to anybody who has played football, it’s not just the fact that Praneel scored from the halfway line, but to pull off something like that at the age of 14 is itself a huge thing.”
For the uninitiated, the football ground is around 100 metres long, so the halfway line is around 50 metres. Most goals are scored from within 20-25 yards from the goal. “If you ever google scoring from the halfway line, you will find seven or eight international players in the world having done something like that and it is celebrated because it is just unimaginable,” explains Ash, adding, “It is every professional footballer’s dream to score a goal from the halfway line.”
True enough. An article by Leicester City Football Club, an English professional football club says, “Goals from distance are widely celebrated, such is the skill required to perfect the art form, but efforts from the halfway line are naturally a rarity. Names in the ilk of Rivaldo, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney come to mind from recent generations as architects of ridiculous goals from over 50 yards away from the opposition’s goal.”
Praneel, who plays football for the Murdoch University and Melville Football Club U15 team, achieved this feat while playing in the Metro Division 1 league game. Interestingly, the club won the league, being undefeated throughout the season this year. Fortunately, being in Western Australia with hardly any lockdown, Praneel has also had the advantage to practice consistently since May end, putting nearly six hours a week in football.
Born in Birmingham, UK, to Indian origin parents, Praneel started playing football as a five-year old before the family migrated to Perth in 2012. Football seems to run in the family. His father, who is an emergency physician in Perth, played state level football for Maharashtra in India, and his grandfather played a season for Mohun Bagan sporting club in Kolkata in the 1950s. So, the football genes have not skipped a generation.
However, it is not just his soccer skills that set him apart. Praneel is also an avid all-rounder playing for the Perth District Cricket Club. Ash believes his son prefers cricket to football and is better in cricket, something Praneel seconds. “I definitely want to try and keep going in cricket, but if things don’t go to plan I think I will just work hard I guess.”
For now, he plays both sports with same enthusiasm and enjoys alternating as cricket is a summer sport and soccer a winter sport. What motivates Praneel is “just getting out there and playing, it’s just really fun and enjoyable”.
Clearly, the Year 9 student of Aquinas College does not really have a vexed relationship with sports. He is also into rowing, swimming and athletics in school. “I feel different sports works well for different parts of your body and increases your overall fitness,” he reflects.
While Ash knows his son’s propensity to excel in sports, he does not know what Praneel will ultimately take up in terms of his career. “He is a straight A student as well and competes for the school debate team, but the fact that we are in Australia and the fact that he is good in sports—I am all for him trying to do as much as he can in sports.”
Ash admits it is good to see children of Indian origin backgrounds excel in sports “which is not something we probably see enough of in Australia because a lot of the Indian families lay emphasis on academics. There are a few of these boys and girls who are exceling in sports in their schools, which is a real celebration.”
Back to Praneel. A progressive child, he does know how to work hard and keep moving forward.
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When Praneel Mukherjee kicked the ball from the halfway line, it bounced upward and reached its goal into the net, leaving him & everyone around in a state of initial shock followed by awe. ⚽️ #TheIndianSun @indira_laisram #football #soccerhttps://t.co/RnwqDWycA9
— The Indian Sun (@The_Indian_Sun) October 13, 2020