KOCHI: For her 10th birthday, Gouri S Nair requested her parents a football for a gift. Her parents obliged but little did they know that it was the start of something remarkable. Four years on, Gouri is now the skipper of the Kochi-based Quartz International Football Academy who will take a flight this week to Indonesia to participate in the Brazilian Soccer Schools Cup. Still not impressed? Wait until you hear that she captains a team full of boys.
You heard it right. Gouri is the only girl trainee at Quartz, the academy launched by Argentina U-23 national team coach Julio Olarticoechea earlier this year. And she has been so impressed with her football skills that the academy handed her the captaincy duty for their first international tour. "She trains among the boys and is very comfortable with it. She matches their levels and often beats them to it," said Jb Mathews, CEO of the academy.
"Boys used to play football at our flat in Bengaluru. She first gathered some girls to play with, but when they stopped showing up, she joined the boys," said Gouri's mother Ambili S who is based in Bengaluru. Gouri was born and brought up in Bengaluru, but moved to Kochi last year looking to hone her football skills.
Though at first, she joined a school in the city where she was picked for badminton and athletics, Gouri moved to the Nava Nirman Public School to concentrate solely on her favourite sport. "She was always interested in sports from an early age. Now, all she wanted to do is play football daily," said Ambili.
"As Quartz provides training only three days a week, she has asked me to enrol at one more training centre so that she can play throughout the week," the mother said. Without receiving any formal football coaching, Gouri was recommended to join the academy after attending a Kerala State Sports Council's sports hostel trials two years ago.
"We looked at plenty of schools where she can concentrate on football and could only zero in on one this year," said Ambili. "She is a great talent. With these international trips, we hope to improve our players with foreign exposure. I hope in three or four years' time, Gouri can reach a stage where she can play at the national level," said Mathews.