KOCHI: When Athul Unnikrishnan began playing football in 2014, little did he know that he will once get the opportunity to live his dream of playing professionally. Now a 17-year-old, he is one of the two young footballers selected to train with the Spanish club Agrupacion Deportiva Alcorcon.AD Alcorcon is a football club based in Madrid, Spain and plays in the Segunda Division, the division below La Liga in which Spanish giants like FC Barcelona and Real Madrid plays. Alcorcon’s most famous victory came in the 2009-10 Copa del Rey when they stunned Real 4-1 in the Round of 32 of the domestic cup competition.
The selection trials to the club was held on April 13 at Chennai and Coimbatore. Subsequently, out of the many young footballers who attended the trials, two boys - Athul and Aditya Subbiah Sudar - got selected. “Right after the trials, the club officials informed us Athul was selected. The formal call letter about it came the other day,” says Adarsh Unnikrishnan, Athul’s brother.
A student of FACT Football Academy, Athul will leave for Madrid in August. He will train with different sides of the Spanish Club for a month from August 15. “In Madrid, the club will take care of his expenses. They will conduct trials and monitor his improvement. If they find his performance satisfactory, a contract to play for the club will be offered,” says Adarsh.
Athul, who used to be active in athletics and was part of the school cricket team, began playing football while he was a Class IX student in Campion Public School, Kochi. Seeing his love for the sport, his parents enrolled him at the FACT Football Academy and he began training under former Kerala Santhosh Trophy player Walter Antony, who is the academy’s coach.
“He learnt everything about football from Walter,” says Adarsh. The native of Kochi has played for Kovalam FC’s under-15 team in the U-15 I-League. Since 2017, he has been playing for the under-18 team of SAIL-Mohun Bagan AC Football Academy. “In fact, Athul took part in the selection trials while he was home for his vacations,” says his brother.
Dreaming big has always been Athul’s league. “His favourite football club is Real Madrid and he has always dreamt of playing for them,” Adarsh says.Athul is not the first player from FACT Football Academy to play in international soil. Another student Alphin Walter from the Academy has been to play in Germany and Iran.