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Why going to school is a goal for those playing FIFA U-17 World Cup

As football teens seek education off the pitch, they get help from travelling tutors and clubs. So, even as Germany aim to win their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup, they’ve ensured that academics don’t suffer.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 11, 2017 13:05 IST
Rajesh Pansare and Dhiman Sarkar
Rajesh Pansare and Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Margao/Kolkata
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,Sunil Chhetri
As Jann-Fiete Arp-led Germany look to win their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup, they’ve ensured that academics don’t suffer. (Getty Images )

Consider this: only 180 of the 1.5 million boys playing youth football in England make it to the Premier League. That’s according to Michael Calvin in his book ‘No Hunger in Paradise’.

Even as the search for the next professional footballer gets younger --- clubs woo six-year-olds --- many of those in the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup won’t make it to the sanctified environs of a top league. When that happens, according to a report in The Guardian that quoted a study by Middlesbrough’s Teeside University, athletes suffer from a lack of self-worth. Going to school therefore becomes more than a fall-back. It helps them get a life.

So, even as they aim to win their first teen World Cup, Germany have ensured that academics don’t suffer.

“Whenever we travel abroad, we have two teachers with us because they travel 60 to 70 days with the national team and they can’t miss out on school. So, we catch up on studies during their free time,” said Hans-Dieter Drewitz, a vice-president with the German football federation DFB, in Margao.

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Iran thrash Germany 4-0 in upset of tournament)

With this squad there are two teachers, one for language and another for maths and science, he said.

For frontman and skipper Jann-Fiete Arp, education was an important reason for staying at hometown club Hamburg SV. “There are so many examples of players’ career ending because of injury. So, education is a must,” he told Hindustan Times.

Arp’s statement found an echo in Mexico midfielder Carlos Guerrero. After training amid pouring rain in Kolkata on Monday, the midfielder said his club, Club Leon, dedicates time for academics. “It’s not really that difficult,” he said.

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Brazil take down North Korea with second half flourish)

Perhaps RB Leipzig’s Elias Abouchabaka would say that too. Having finished his Baccalaureate, he is said to be the sharpest when it comes to combining football and school in this Germany squad.

Not everyone finds it that simple. “Sometimes, I don’t find time for school. I don’t know whether I will pursue academics but at least I would want to complete high school. Will focus on it after the World Cup,” said Mexico striker Jairo Torres in Kolkata.

A doctoral study at Chester University quoted by the Guardian pointed out that a lot of young footballers in England don’t take education seriously because the boys think they can make it as professionals.

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Niger coach vents anger at referee after loss vs Spain)

School bettered my football: Chhetri

“Big mistake that. Education gives you the discipline to be good at something and gives you knowledge which is never a bad thing. I became a better footballer because of what I learnt in school. And trust me, it is not difficult to do both,” Sunil Chhetri, the India and Bengaluru FC captain, told Hindustan Times over the phone from Bengaluru on Monday.

“I did all right in school but I could have done better had I goofed around less. I didn’t even know that I would be a professional footballer till I signed for Mohun Bagan,” said Chhetri who is getting married this December.

“I tried college too but football came in the way. Some day, I will go back to college because my father said it would be embarrassing to tell my children that I have only passed Class 12,” he said.

First Published: Oct 11, 2017 12:56 IST