GURUGRAM: Six Indian kids in the age bracket of 10-14 years will be part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup set to start in Russia this month.
A total of 64 kids from across the world, including Nathania John K from Andhra Pradesh and Rishi Tej from Bangalore, have been chosen to participate in the Official Match Ball Carrier (OMBC) programme and deliver the football to the pitch during the pre-match ceremony. On the other hand, Aditya Batra from Gurugram, Banjul Bhalla and Priyasharan Prakash from Noida, and Scott Ashley Rodrigues from Mumbai have been chosen to watch selected matches, along with kids from other countries.
The OMBC campaign was launched on digital platforms on April 10, with a focus on all young football fans aspiring to become professionals in the future. In order to enter the first phase of the competition, parents recorded and submitted a short film of their kids, showing their skill, passion and interest in the sport. Based on these videos, 50 out of 1,500 participants were chosen from across the country to take part in the trials in May.
Conducted by Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, the trials tested the kids’ abilities on the field. Nathania John K (11), who studies in Class VII at Rishi Valley School, Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, will carry the ball during the Brazil vs Costa Rica match.
“I got selected for the trials after sending a 30-seconds video. During the trials, we had to juggle, dribble and play penalty shootouts and were selected to go to Russia based on our performance,” she said, adding that Argentine footballer Lionel Messi was her role model.
Rishi Tej (10), a Class V student at Royale Concorde International School, Bangalore, Karnataka, will carry the ball during the Belgium vs Panama match. He said, “The competition was not that tough but to ensure that I got selected to go to Russia, I had to put in three-four hours of practice each day.” Never before has India had any official representation at the FIFA World Cup.Kia Motors, an automobile firm which has partnerered with FIFA for the 2018 world cup, has come up with the initiative that involves kids from different countries, including India, in the events. Aditya Batra, a Class IX student at Shri Ram School, Gurugram, said, “A platform to showcase my skills and being judged by football icon Sunil Chhetri was a once-in-lifetime opportunity.” The prospect of witnessing the biggest football extravaganza in person had been on his mind ever since the auditions started. “My favourite is Argentine footballer Lionel Messi and I hope to meet him,” he added.
Talking about how the initiative could promote the sport in the country, Chhetri said, “We need to increase the fan base for football and initiatives such as this are great experiences for fans.” On India’s chances at the world stage, he said, “We’re on the right path but we’re surely far from a spot in the world cup. Hopefully, if we keep working hard over the years, we will get there.” Chhetri said the U-17 World Cup, which took place in the county last year, had put India on the world map. He added that he would support Germany in this world cup.