Bangalore duo returns in awe

Soccer Stars under-15 Indian team defeat Forest Royal to bag crown

Manimaran and Santhosh were a part of the Tata Tea Jaago Re Soccer Stars team that made history by clinching the Arsenal International Soccer Festival trophy. “It was a great feeling to play there with so many teams, and to compete at such a high level,” Manimaran said.

“The biggest thing was the size difference between the other teams and ours. But we knew we had the talent and we showed that by winning the tournament,” the DYSS, Vidyanagar student added. “To get on a plane for the first time and to experience football in a country like England was unbelievable,” Santhosh chimed.

“Watching Arsenal play Boca Juniors at the Emirates stadium was something I cannot explain,” he added after the kids were given an opportunity to watch the English Premier League side’s pre-season tournament, the Emirates Cup.

The 16-member Soccer Stars under-15 team from India defeated UK team Forest Royal 1-0 at the Royal Holloway College grounds in the University of London to bring home the title for the first time in the tournament’s 21-year history. The competition saw 126 teams taking part from 12 countries.

“India has unlimited talent. It is just a matter of nurturing this talent and giving it a platform to flourish,” said Jamshed Nassiri, head scout of the Soccer Stars. “To see such a young team perform so well against teams which are essentially full-fledged academies is something we should be proud of,” the former East Bengal and Iranian national team player added.

Sourav Chatterjee, CEO of Hi Life Management, the company that conceptualised the idea in India, said his firm would continue to back the young footballers. “The door is always open. Every player -- not just the final 16, but the 30 trained by Arsenal coaches earlier in Kolkata -- has Jamshed’s number. If they are interested in making a career out of football, we will ensure they are given the opportunity to do so.”

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