BENGALURU Thursday 18 June 2009
Wayne Rooney became the youngest player ever to score in the English Premiership when in 2002, he came on as a substitute for Everton and scored the winning goal against Arsenal at the age of 16.
Fuelled by passion, powered by
DREAMS Diwakar Thapa, who became the only youngster from Bengaluru to win an all expense paid training stint with Arsenal this year, hopes the venture will spur his dream to be a professional footballer some day. MAXIN MATHEW DECCAN CHRONICLE
The training was tough but I was confident I could make it. I put my heart and soul into it as I couldn’t risk wasting such a golden chance. Seeing my name on the final roster was a feeling I can’t put in words
BEST FOOT FORWARD ASC Centre’s Diwakar Thapa proved his mettle amongst 400 kids from the city to win a trip to Arsenal . PHOTOS: R. SAMUEL
crutinising eyes welcome visitors at the gates of the impeccably-maintained, sprawling campus of the Army Services Corps Centre. But on Wednesday, the probing looks of the jawan on duty turned into an ecstatic smile as Diwakar Thapa stepped forward for an introduction. “Yeh hamara ladka hai. Isne hamara naam roshan kiya hai (He is our boy. He has made us all proud),” the jawan said, squeezing a blushing Thapa in an adulating hug. Sixteen-year-old Thapa outshined over 400 kids to become the only boy from Bengaluru this year to win an all expense paid training stint with premier English football club Arsenal, after excelling in the second edition of the Tata Tea Jaago Re Soccer Stars tournament. He will also be part of a 16-member team that will represent India at the Arsenal International Soccer Festival. Such opportunities are just dreams for many, and for Thapa it was nothing less similar. “I am still wondering how I managed to achieve something this big. Few years ago, such an opportunity would have only occurred in my dreams,” Thapa, a class nine student said. Having his roots in the picturesque town of Darjeeling, Thapa’s love for football owed basically to the mighty impact the sport has in the North-East. Several constraints would have forced him to shun his dream, if it wasn’t for his elder brother who advised him to join the Army. “He told me that the Army would give me a chance to play football on a larger scale and someday I could be an officer. I didn’t think twice before signing up,” Thapa said. He soon began to impress with his skills for his Boys Sports Company (BSC) team in several tournaments and coach G.V. Venugopal prepared him for the Soccer Stars event. His powerful strikes, speed and athletic built caught tournament head scout Jamshed Nassiri’s eye and the spunky lad was eventually shortlisted along with ASC mate Kyprang Swell and S. Pratap
Kumar among 32 probables from 4.600 kids in the country for a month-long training camp at the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club in Ballygunge. Arsenal coaches Paul Shipwright and Kurt Maginley tested the 32 footballers in their customised training programme called the “Arsenal Way”. They put them through several grueling training sessions before singling out the chosen 16 who will head to London on July 27. “The training was tough but I was confident I could make it. I put my heart and soul into it as I couldn’t risk wasting such a golden chance. Seeing my name on the final roster was a feeling I can’t put in words,” Thapa added. The last edition of this tournament saw three Bengaluru boys — Kiran Kumar, R. Deepak and ASC’s Avijit Dey — heading to England. Under the captainship of Kiran, the team fought off several countries such as England, USA and Greece to win the Plate Cup. “Avijit’s feat was one of the factors that prompted me to take part in the event. I hope we can defend the title this year,” Thapa said. Amidst the strict disciplinary regime inside the campus, this achievement has come as a respite to Thapa. “Not everyone here is aware about my exploits. But the seniors, my friends and parents who know are very happy for me. I want to see myself as a professional football someday and hopefully this stint will give it the boost it needs,” he added.