If you look at Avyay Gujral, you’ll never believe that just four years ago, he was “a really fat kid”. That’s when the football bug bit him and since then, with a lot of help from friends and family, it’s been a whirlwind ride for the Gurgaon lad.
On Sunday, Gujral, now 16, leaves for Manchester, where he will undergo a one-week trial with the latest giants of English football, Manchester City. If he does well, he will spend a year at the City academy, where he will be honed by top coaches and will have access to some of the best training facilities.
His first serious brush with the sport was at the under-14 Nationals in 2005, where he represented Haryana. “One day when I came home, I saw a letter lying on my bed inviting me to attend a camp for international players in 2006. This is when I got serious about football as a profession.” He has since trained with RSC Anderlecht, the current Belgian champions, and had a stint with the JMG Academy in Belgium, which has produced the likes of the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya.
“My first trip to Belgium was because a football fan there saw my videos on YouTube and started contacting clubs to ask if they were interested,” says Gujral. “After the first trip to Belgium, my father started getting into my football and since, then I have had my family’s support.”
At an age when kids don’t have a care in the world, Gujral has a goal. “I was in a normal school till Class 10, but now I have enrolled in an open school so that I can travel and train.”
Junk food, parties, discovering girls and hanging out with friends are for other kids. Gurjal trains twice a day under Ahmad Nasir, a strength and conditioning expert, who also works with tennis player Yuki Bhambri. “I train for about four hours a day.
One session in the gym, where we do weights, yoga, pilates and other stuff and the other session is field work, where we work with the ball and do drills for reflexes, skills, and control. My family spends a lot on my training, so I cut a deal with them. Since I go to an open school, they pay less as school fees. Football is my education,” he says.