Sujal Kahar, a 12-year-old boy from underprivileged family living in Mumbai, has been selected to represent India at the Football for Friendship tournament held in St Petersburg, Russia in July this year.
It’s the first time that India has been invited to participate in the tournament, in which boys and girls from 64 countries have been selected to participate.
After a month of try-outs and training, Sujal, who will be taking up the position of goal-keeper, reports Times of India. He was selected by the NGO, Just for Kicks, from among 2500 students representing 100 schools. The not-for-profit collaborates with low-income schools and empowers students with valuable skills sets through a football-based curriculum.
Sujal studies in Class 6 and one of 15 members in a poor family. In preparation for the big event, the 12-year-old spent his summer holidays training at the Educo Saibaba Path Mumbai Public School in Mumbai, and excitedly telling his family and friends how he cannot wait to represent his country.
Football for Friendship is an international children’s social programme organised by the Russian gas company, Gazprom, in partnership with FIFA, since 2013. It includes sports and educational events held around the world and aims to promote tolerance and understanding of different cultures.
Sujal has been a keen goal-keeper when he first began playing and his father brought him a pair of goalkeeper gloves. With support from his coach of one year, Chhagan Chauhan, his skills as a goalkeeper were soon discovered. His coach describes him as a shy boy, who comes to life on the pitch and enjoys the goalkeeper position as he is able to shout instructions to the rest of his teammates.
As part of his Russian sojourn, Sujal with act as an Ambassador of Indian youth and will also participate in the Football for Friendship International Children’s Forum, a platform for budding sportsmen and sportswomen to offer ideas on promote the programme’s values around the world.
Sujal, and the other children, will also get to watch the final of the Confederation Cup, where he hopes to meet his favourite players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.