Published: 15th October 2017
This rescued teen from Kollam dribbles away from uncertainty and into a possible future in national Football
The home, however, will have to find additional funding for training, travel and football gear in the absence of a sponsor
An uncertain future to a motivation for young underprivileged kids with a shaky future, a 14-year-old boy rescued by the Government Children's Home in Kollam has recieved his first big break with the Football Plus Professional Soccer Academy — a Chennai-based prospective U-15 I-League side — putting him on their roster.
Manikandan R's childhood seemed bleak, his dreams possibly limited to a roof for shelter or to have better food and clothing. Seven years after being rescued from the streets and after being exposed to the 'Beautiful Game', the defender impressed the academy’s coaches during a recent selection trial in Chennai. The idea of football, Manikandan told Express, first struck him while watching the game on a television at the children's home.
“I love football and it's the training camp here that has changed my life. At present, I'm keeping two dreams close to my heart. One is to become a part of the national team, and the other is to become like Lionel Messi.”
“The Kollam District Child Protection Unit first spotted him as a seven-year-old during Oachira Kali (a traditional festival),” said Deepak, an officer with the unit. "He was seeking alms there. We learned that he was homeless and slept with his mother on the roadside. As she had forced him into begging, we transferred him to the children's home. Our efforts thereafter to locate his mother have been in vain,” he said.
According to Shajahan, Deputy Superintendent of the children's home, football training conducted by the institution — in association with the Black Pearl's Sports Club — at the Fatima Mata College Ground made all the difference for Manikandan.
“We have two teams: U-13 and U-17. Though we were conducting the camp as a sort of recreational activity for the children, with Manikandan’s selection, we’ll have to take it more seriously. With talent and hard work, a boy from the underprivileged section is set to make it big in life. It's a really proud moment for all of us,” he said.
Manikandan's coach Abhilash MP said that the absence of a sponsor might affect his progression as the children's home — as well as the club — will now have to find additional funding for travel, training and equipment.
“He has become an inspirational figure. He has provided underprivileged children with a hope that they too can dream big. It's just a baby step, but considering the circumstances from which he reached there, it is commendable,” the coach said.
Now a Class IX student of SN Trust School (Kollam), Manikandan’s mindset is perfect for a team sport like football, said the authorities from the home. “He was under foster care a couple of times, but it proved unsuccessful. He always prefers to be part of a group rather than being a part of some other family. This might help him as it will be easier for him to gel with a team under any circumstance,” said Abhilash.
Manikandan will leave for Chennai on October 20, with the preliminary round of matches slated to begin a week later.