Only a battle for procuring passports is all that remains as the last expected hurdle in the way of Rahul M and Jijo F to fly to the coveted football school of Manchester United after they were picked by the coaches of the UK club at a camp organised in Bangalore under the ‘Airtel Rising Stars’ talent scouting programme.
The two youngsters, along with V K Afdal from Manjeri, were the three from the State who were picked by the coaches after a five-day camp, where 52 youths from across the country participated.
Rahul and Jijo, who started for Kerala from Bangalore on Sunday evening, sounded upbeat over their performance during a telephonic conversion with City Express. “It was a wonderful camp at Bangalore. The camp had all the modern facilities and, moreover, the coaches who mentored us were world-class. It was a great experience learning from professional coaches. The camp will certainly benefit us in the long run,” said Rahul, without holding back his excitement of flying to the Manchester United Soccer School.
Jijo also was exuberant over the thought that they would hone their skills practising with the Manchester United Academy Team for 10 days this November. He also was liberal in his praise of the training he received in the camp. “The training gave us a fresh insight into how modern football is being played. From emboldening the defence to weaving a sparkling movement in the midfield, the camp had something different to offer us. But if you press me for more, then I will say that the camp gave more emphasis on skill development,” said the blooming midfielder.
The selection of the players is being considered by some as a propitious sign for the game in the country. “India is a big country and naturally all the football clubs would aim to create a strong fan base here. If the two can convince the club of their capabilities, then I feel they will have a good chance of being absorbed into the school. It, at first, may sound quite bizarre, but in reality, the soccer world is eyeing the country seriously. This could benefit football and its players a lot,” said Gee Varghese, secretary of the Thiruvananthapuram District Football Association.
While Rahul is doing his plus-one course at G V Raja Sports School, Jijo is studying for the same course at St Joseph’s HSS in the city.