Social barriers were broken in kick-off of the fourth edition of the Milind Deora South Mumbai Junior Soccer Championship at the Western Railway ground, Mahalaxmi on Saturday.
Congress MP Milind Deora, who is Minister of State (Communication & IT), revealed that this edition will see over 4200 students from 200 schools (majority of which are municipal and government-aided) showcasing their football skills over the next four weekends.
Enthusiastic: A bunch of football kids with Milind Deora at the Milind Deora South Mumbai Junior Soccer Championship at the Western Railway ground in Mahalaxmi., Mumbai last week. Pic/Suresh KK
As an added motivation for the youngsters, 30 footballers will be selected for a conditioning camp by coaches from English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers (QPR) who will arrive over the month.
Two standout talents from this group will be taken to London for a five-week training programme next year. Manav Dattaram (12) of Saibaba Path Municipal School (Worli) said: “We are not as fortunate as other elite schools that get to play round the year. Coming here and playing against them is a
Fourteen-year-old Nasir Qureshi, a class VIII student of Worli BDD Municipal School, considers the championship as a major upgrade over playing at his local maidan. “I have never played in a competitive tournament before this. I play with older boys in my area on the pavements of the BDD chawl in Worli. Sometimes, we also go to Jamboree maidan. This tournament, for me, is larger than life,” said Nasir.
Nine-year-old Varun Solanki is having the time of his life.“I was shocked when I saw so many children at play.
“It is here that I realised the competitive atmosphere,” said Varun, a student of EEE Sassoon High School, Byculla. Chirag Chaurasia, son of a taxi driver, explained that playing a tournament is a completely different ball game. “In school, the maximum time we get to play is an hour. Here, it is like a football carnival. I just don't feel like going back home,” said the 12-year-old.
Meanwhile, Vishal Agrahari, student of KK Marg UP Hindi School and son of a vegetable vendor, is using the opportunity as a learning curve. “Two years ago, when I moved to Mumbai from a village in Auri, Uttar Pradesh, I didn’t even know how to kick a ball. With regular practice, I have learnt how to play. I’m aware that I don’t stand a chance to be selected in the 30 probables. Nonetheless, the tournament has inspired me to work hard and come back strong next year,” said the Currey Road resident.