"When Sunil Chhetri asks for the Ball, I Just Hope I Throw it Right" - Ball Boy Hopes to be next Bengaluru FC Academy Star
It's a game that's popular for other reasons - a 16-year-old 'sensation' finding the back of the net and becoming the youngest goalscorer of the ISL.
In the same match though, a 13-year-old made his debut. Not on the pitch, but just along the sidelines as a ball-boy.
Gautam Rajesh's debut during the Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on October 7 was going well too.
Part of the Bengaluru FC Academy, Gautam was placed in the middle on one side of the pitch.
And then, Sunil Chhetri happened to hit the ball out, right on Gautam's territory.
Gautam was called into action quite soon and what's his first thought? That's Sunil Chhetri! Come on, I need to get this right.
"How was my first match? Well, you just look where the ball is going," Gautam says. "If it's come to your position, be ready. If the player is asking for the ball, give it straightaway.
"And when it was Sunil Chhetri during the game, my head was going 'Sunil Chhetri is asking for the ball. Give it properly. Don't make a mistake. Don't throw somewhere else'.
"And then Nishu Kumar (the BFC full-back) takes the throw in because Chhetri doesn't take most of the times."
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Gautam's main talent, of course, is what he does on the pitch. A midfielder by trade, he has been part of various academies in Bengaluru like Boca Juniors, Roots FA before being called up by the Bengaluru FC Academy after their Boost-BFC Soccer Shield last year.
He's one of the five guys who was taken into the academy after being spotted in the tournament, the fifth edition of which will kick off on January 15. (The others are Vinith V, Rohit Negi, Priyansh Dubey and Yodhin Rishyak.)
Gautam will be part of the DPS (East) side in the U-14 category.
"After the inter-school tournament last year, Srinivas Murthy, the head of operations of BFC, asked my dad to send me for trials," Gautam says. But I was in Kolkata for the Sub-Junior Nationals as part of the Karnataka team. But the academy coaches Rajan and Goverdhan said they have seen me play and wanted me to sign a contract.
"That was six months ago. My parents were happy because it's BFC after all. Rajan sir asked my father to bring me to the stadium. He wanted to speak to me. The day after that, he asked me to sign the contract."
Gautam's journey is quite interesting. He was part of the U-12 and the U-14 matches last year for DPS (East). Both went on to win the Cup.
"The semifinal against Greenwood International was the toughest match last season. They were the defending champions. It was a close one.
"I scored a goal off a free-kick by chipping it over the keeper, noticing that he was out of his line.
"Soon after that, I had to play the U-14 final. I started on the bench there but it's good that I was playing physically tougher opponents at a young age itself.
"The age does matter in a physical level but technically, you will be the same. You think of yourself as equal to the opponent in terms of your technical skills and approach it.
Moving forward, Gautam says he doesn't want to be the kid collecting the footballs which have gone outside the boundary and throwing them to the players. He wants to soon be asking them, he says.
"This tournament is a chance to showcase my talent," Gautam says. "I got a chance to play with Bengaluru FC because of this tournament last year.
"It also gave me a chance of being a ball-boy in Bengaluru FC's home games. But soon, I hope that I am the one asking for the ball from the pitch. I know I need to work hard to do that.
"I don't follow a diet but I generally avoid junk food. Every evening, once I come back from school, I eat a fruit. I eat rice once a day.
"It's mostly while having dinner because I am at school during lunchtime. I balance the carbs, proteins and fat that way to maintain my fitness."