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Young footballers to fly to SA

Fifteen young Indian footballers will be in South Africa from June 15 to June 20 to cheer their favourite FIFA stars. They are part of the Indian team which has been selected from a countrywide talent hunt for a five-day training programme in SA.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2010 16:57 IST

Not many young footballers are as fortunate as Shobbham Basnett and the 15 others who will fly to South Africa to watch their favourite World Cup stars from a vantage point.

Shobbham is part of the Indian team which has been selected from a countrywide talent hunt by Coca Cola and All India Football Federation (AIFF) for a five day training programme in South Africa. The team, which leaves Monday, will be part of the 'Coca-Cola International 2010 Football Camp' from June 15-20 organised in Tuks Village in Pretoria.

"I am very excited to make this trip," says Shobbham, who hails from Sikkim and is a Class 10 student of Air Force School, Subroto Park here.

"My father, who was a state level player, introduced me to football and I want to take up the sport professionally," says Shobbham, a Lionel Messi fan.

"Messi has been in such a good form in the first match against Nigeria and I just hope that I get to see him," he says.

The team will also participate in a competitive tournament involving countries like Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam and Guatemala.

The young players were chosen from Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy Tournament' (MIHT), a grassroot talent hunt which saw participation from 6,000 children from 1,000 schools in over 400 districts across 31 states.

The talent selection process was supervised by the technical team of AIFF under the leadership of Colm Toal, Technical Director, AIFF.

"It was a very competitive tournament and we gave our best to come so far," says Jamshedpur's Budhrai Soren, who along with two other boys from the Jharkhand city, made it to the squad through Army School in Danapur, Patna, where they study.

"It will be an entertaining trip. And all of us will be going abroad for the first time," says Soren, whose favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo.

"My father encouraged me to play football, but my mother wanted me to focus on study. After getting selected for this team, she too wants me to make a career in football."

The players interacted with former India players I.M Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, Manoranjan Bhattacharya and current goalkeeper Subrata Paul here Monday.

"It is a huge opportunity for the players. They will learn from this experience," said Vijayan.

Alberto Colaco, general-secretary, AIFF and Atul Singh, president and CEO, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia were also present.

"This initiative will not just encourage young footballers in the country but will also play a key role in encouraging youngsters to adopt football as a preferred sport," said Colaco.

Singh said their partnership with AIFF is an extension of the company's worldwide focus on football.

"We are very happy to send these talented footballers to South Africa. We believe that Indian football has all the potential to make a mark on the global map. However, the need is to tap budding talent and nurture them."

First Published: Jun 15, 2010 16:05 IST