Harpreet Bedi: a youngster with talent to make it big
The 14-year-old from Dehra Dun sealed St. Stephens Academy, Chandigarh's passage to the last four stage of the Manchester United Premier Cup.sports Updated: Jan 18, 2008 19:12 IST
Harpreet Bedi idolises Cristiano Ronaldo, but unlike the twinkle-toe Manchester United winger, he announces himself by finding the target with a screaming long ranger which is rare to find among footballers of his age.
The 14-year-old from Dehra Dun sealed St. Stephens Academy, Chandigarh's passage to the last four stage of the Manchester United Premier Cup (India finals) with two screamers against SSA Football Academy, Mizoram, here on Thursday.
Both teams were equally matched but it was Harpreet who made the difference in Chandigarh side's 2-1 win.
St. Stephens now take on SBHS Academy, Gurdaspur, in the last four as they aim to represent India at the South-East Asia regional finals in Kuala Lumpur in June.
Harpreet has already caught the eye of the national coaching staff and has earned a call-up for the preparatory camp ahead of the AFC U-16 championship to be held in Uzbekistan in October, under AIFF's technical director Colin Toal.
Fittingly enough, Toal and national chief coach Bob Houghton were in the stands and would be pleased with what they saw.
Harpreet, whose parents run a restaurant in the Uttarakhand capital, began playing the game for the sheer fun but now the Class IX student harbours ambitions of turning out for India.
"His parents brought him here four years ago and we held trials before inducting him," coach Surinder Singh said.
Referring to Harpreets two goals today, his coach said "he has good technique and if you make a good connection, these new balls fly."
St. Stephens Academy is doing a good job of developing talent at the grassroot level and several of their trainees have impressed the selectors.
"Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was the Indian goalkeeper at the AFC U-16 qualifiers in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and made a good impression," Surinder said.
Apart from Harpreet, goalkeeper of the U-15 team Shubham Gupta and Johny Chand Singh have also been called up for the camp, he said.
The academy is part of an educational institution and has 50 students at a time till they pass Class X.
"We try to develop players so that they can be inducted to places like the Tata Football Academy where they can be fine-tuned further. There they will also get vital exposure and can aspire to play in tournaments such as Durand Cup and the second division national league," the coach said.
There are several football academies coming up in Chandigarh and Punjab that points to the passion for the game in the region.
"However, apart from JCT, there are not any good clubs there and they too dont have a very good academy. They make up for that with their resources and can afford to sign players from the rest of the country and abroad," Surinder said.
The St. Stephens Academy, started in 1998, is largely made up of local players but there are some, like Harpreet, who come from far off places to develop themselves as footballers.