Headline: Dhirpal Shah (‘20) takes a gap year to pursue a professional soccer career

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Dhirpal Shah (‘20) trains with his team members four to five times a week, playing weekly games semi-regularly. [PHOTO COURTESY OF DHIRPAL SHAH]

Like many other students from the Class of 2020, Dhirpal Shah (‘20) decided to take a gap year during these unprecedented times. He wanted to take this year off of school to pursue a professional career in soccer. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, was not the only reason as to why he decided to take this gap year; in reality, Dhirpal had always been planning to do so after graduating high school. “I had actually begun to plan on [a] gap year during the end of 2019,” he said. “And because football (soccer) did not relate too heavily to the pandemic at the time, I would have considered [a] gap year regardless [of the circumstances].” 

His parents were fortunately very supportive of his decision and were relieved that he would be staying in Taiwan for longer, where the pandemic has been successfully controlled. Dhirpal was also optimistic about taking a gap year. “I am confident that I will look back and acknowledge that this was one of the best decisions of my teenage years,” he said. “Football is great and all, but the chance to stay near my family and appreciate this country for what it has done for me is truly a blessing.” 

Since the beginning of his gap year, Dhirpal has been dedicating around three hours of his day to soccer, training with his team members four to five times a week and playing weekly games semi-regularly. He also spends an additional three hours in the weight room, and sometimes travels across the island to play soccer matches with his team. 

After his season ends, he plans on taking some time off to “sit back and relax,” and even travel abroad to India or European countries, where soccer clubs have already expressed interest in signing him as a player. However, this will only be possible if vaccines are widely available and the COVID-19 situation improves. If that is not the case, he is happy staying in Taiwan and taking time to pursue his other passions such as reading and yoga.

Dhirpal really enjoys the flexibility that he now has. “The best thing about taking a gap year is the freedom to pursue the things you love to a greater extent than in high school or even college,” he said. “Although there are moments of anxiety when I worry about what the next few months will look like, [having] a good plan about what you want to spend your time doing, [reminds you that] there really is nothing to worry about.”

Dhirpal does not know whether he wants to go to university in the fall of 2021 or push it back even more as he is still at a “crossroads of trying to pursue professional football and attending university.” However, he is definitely excited about reuniting with people of his age if he does decide to go back to school in the fall. “[Since] I am playing with a professional men’s team here [in Taiwan], I am training with some people twice my age, and it’s fair to say that there is a bit of a generation[al] gap between us,” he said. “I miss the reassuring feeling of people around you that understand what you are feeling and going through.”

For current seniors, Dhirpal recommends taking a gap year. “Even if COVID-19 magically disappears as you graduate, do not throw the thought of a gap year away so easily. Many teachers I consulted in highschool encouraged me to take it because they believed that it would help in innumerable ways. If you have a plan, or even a passion, a gap year may be the best decision of your life,” he said.