BENGALURU: Surya Varikuti believes in pushing his limits and keeping faith. Going by his mantra, it’s no surprise that the 12-year-old has been selected to represent India at the Global Football for Friendship (F4F) social programme in Russia in June. The youngster will get the opportunity to meet, play and interact with children from across the globe. The children will be a part of the 32 International Teams of Friendship and will play against each other in the Gazprom football for friendship international championship. But it hasn’t come easy.
While others his age often enjoy junk food, Surya prefers keeping away from it. His diet is typically south Indian food at home, in addition to one or two eggs a day, and non-vegetarian food at least twice or thrice a month. He also has one or two fruits per day, banana being a staple. "Maintaining health and eating right is crucial,” says Surya as he gears up for the game.
He started playing at the age of five. The class eight student, who was born in Bengaluru but moved to the USA when he was one-and-a-half-years-old and moved back to the city again, recalls playing at Stanford in the USA. “When I moved back to India at the age of eright, I started playing here," he says.
The young aspirant tells us that he was taken aback when he got the news of being selected For the programme that is supported by Gazprom and FIFA and aims at developing an interest amongst the youth in football, promoting a healthy lifestyle, tolerance, open-mindedness and respect for different cultures and nationalities. "I feel excited and happy, my father is really proud and says it's an achievement for me. I'm looking forward to meeting new friends, making new friends and learning about the culture of the people from around the world."
The selection process was rigorous and Surya was chosen for the programme on March 19. The selection trials were held by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). They went through the performances of hundreds of children and selected Surya as the best defender, fitting the criteria, from a team that conceded the least number of goals. He currently plays for Roots Football School (RFS) in Bengaluru and dreams to play for the national football team in the future. "My favourite player in the world is Messi, he plays the game real well. I'm also a big fan of Barcelona, I like Jody Alba, he's a left-back. I play the same position as him and I like him a lot."
Surya was trained by Bappaditya Bhattacharya, co-founder of the Roots Football School. His thrilled coach says that this exposure for Surya is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, where he'll get to interact with other players from around the world. “It will also help him be a better person. In a team game like football, you get to learn life skills — you've got to back your friends on the ground."
In Bengaluru and India, Bappaditya adds, there is a future for the sport. “Only if there is a clean-up though. There is a movement in football, in terms of the support that comes from the parents. But the onus is on everyone to give the child a transparent system so he/she can perform to his/her best capacity," he adds. Meanwhile, a word of advice from Surya, who is working on making a career out of the sport. “Youngsters shouldn’t shy away from taking up a sport. Keep trying out for trials in clubs, you might be selected if you're good enough.”