Underdogs unleashed: the story of India's under-17 squad
(Eds: Repeating after corrections in spelling)
By Philem Dipak Singh
New Delhi, Sep 22 (PTI) A tailor's son from Sikkim, a carpenter's son from Manipur and a youngster whose mother is a street vendor in Bengaluru -- the Indian team for the under-17 FIFA World Cup is a fascinating blend of underdogs from different parts of the country.
Many in the 21-member team, playing in the first ever FIFA event to be held in the country from October 6-28, had seen their parents struggle to make ends meet.
But they have managed to pursue their passion for the game and are on the verge of realising a dream -- that of playing for the country at one of the biggest stages in international football.
Komal Thatal, a sprightly 17-year-old boy from Sikkim, did not have the means to buy a football and he had to play with a ball made of rags or plastic in his childhood.
"My parents are tailors and we have a small shop at my native place. When I was a child I used to play with round objects made of cloth or plastic," Thatal told PTI from the training base in Goa.
His father, Arun Kumar, and mother Sumitra have been saving from their meagre income to buy the playing kits for Thatal, including a pair of boots and a football.
"It is hard to ask my parents to buy a football. But they are very supportive. They save money and buy football kits for me. I have friends who are better off and they have also helped me in getting things like footballs and boots," said Thatal who wears the No.10 jersey.
From his local school at Timberbong at Soren sub-division in West Sikkim, Thatal made it to the Namchi Sports Academy in 2011. Impressed by his skills, the academy's head coach sent Thatal for a trial in 2014 in Goa when the AIFF was looking for talented players for the U-17 World Cup.
Thatal got the nod and since then, he has been at the Indian camp. He has been a key member of the team and came to the limelight during the BRICS Cup in Goa last year when he scored a brilliant goal against Brazil though India lost the match 1-3.
A similar struggle was endured by Amarjit Singh Kiyam, a Manipuri boy who is likely to captain the side in the U-17 World Cup.
Amarjit's father -- Chandramani Singh Kiyam