KOCHI: They went to watch the Brazilians train, fearing that they will be shooed away from the ground any moment. But never in their wildest dreams did they imagine kicking a football with the stars of the Brazilian U-17 national team.
The trainees of Government Sports Academy in Panampilly Nagar were watching from behind the railings of their renovated ground when they were told to boot up and get to the ground for some passing drills with the Brazilian squad.
“We stay at the sports hostel nearby and came just to watch them train. But who’d have thought we will be able to play football and click selfies with those players,” exclaimed 16-year-old goalkeeper Aswin Mohan, barely able to contain his excitement.
The 24 trainees of the academy run by Kerala State Sports Council have been training away at the Ambedkar Stadium for several months after their ground was closed for renovation ahead of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“This was also incidentally the first time we trained on our new ground,” said 18-year-old Galin Joshi, who was part of the Panampilly Nagar HSS team that reached the final of the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports national championship earlier this year.
“The Brazil coaching staff saw the boys and asked for 30 kids to join them in a few drills,” said Michael Andrews, an AFC match commissioner and a member of the Local Organising Committee.
The kids exchanged pleasantries before joining in for El Rondos with the Brazil players which lasted for over half an hour.
“We thought the closest we would get to them was from the stands of the stadium. But to rub shoulders with them was a surreal experience,” said Galin.
Flamengo forward Lincoln Correa dos Santos said it was “priceless” to train with the local boys. “It was a good experience for us and obviously, it is evident they were happy to play with us,” said Lincoln on the sidelines of the training session.
“To see them this excited is priceless. We are happy with such opportunities that football provides us,” said the Brazil forward who is 16. Quizzed about the absence of his club teammate Vinicus Jr, Lincoln said, “He could have helped us. But we have good players and are totally confident.”
The Brazil team which arrived in Mumbai last week have been training in Kochi for the past two days. “The pitches here are in very good condition and the climate is just like what we have back home. It was the time difference which bothered us in the beginning, but we have gotten over it now,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln’s side will face Spain, another favourite in the tournament, in the opening group match here on October 6. “Spain will be a tough opposition, but we have really high expectations for the game,” the teenager said.