11-Year-Old Football Prodigy From Odisha Slums To Train With Bayern Munich In Germany

11-Year-Old Football Prodigy From Odisha Slums To Train With Bayern Munich In Germany

By the time you read his story, 11-year-old Chandan Nayak will already be flying high amidst the clouds on his way to Germany. A child who grew up in the Sabar Sahi slum of Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, Chandan will be training with football legends at Bayern Munich Football Club, one of the world’s top football academies and clubs for two whole months.

Joining 120 students from around the world through Bajaj Allianz Junior Football Camp, Chandan is probably the youngest in the crowd of 14-16 year-old teenagers. He will be joined by four other players selected from Pune and Kerala. The way he made it to the selection is no luck by chance either. Jayadev Mahapatra, 36, is a coach with Ardor Football academy that trains underprivileged children free of cost and develops soccer at a grassroot level who has been training Chandan for a year and can vouch for his incredible skills. “Selectors from the Allianz team were not ready to let him participate as he didn’t meet the age criteria. We requested them during city trials in Bhubaneshwar to let him play and give him a chance and he surprised everyone. He was chosen in the Pune finals and was in the top 5 ranks. Even Sunil Chhetri, one of the top soccer players in the country and a selector there was amazed by his talent,” he said.

Drawing attention towards the plight of Chandan’s family, his coach Jayadev Mahapatra said that his family was extremely underprivileged, who struggled to make ends meet but added that his resilience against mounting difficulties should be seen as a sign of bravery. ”His family is a broken one. His father had deserted him at a very young age. His mother works as a servant at various places and is able to manage the family. She has sacrificed a lot to ensure that her children are brought up in a proper way. Chandan coming from a poor family stands as a sign of bravery because against all odds, he has proved his talent,” Jayadev told ANI. The report added that the coach was also effusive in his praise for both the Central and State government, saying that all necessary documents had been created in time for his hassle-free travel. ”When he was selected, it came to light that he didn’t have a proper birth certificate. He only had an Aadhaar card. Initially, there were a lot of troubles but we got a lot of help from state and central govt. His passport, visa and birth certificates were made within quick time. We have deposited his application with German consulate in Kolkata on Friday. We are hopeful that his visa be ready in a few days,” he said.

Image source: ANI

Mahapatra spotted him from the 70 to 80 slum children that came to the academy to learn football. “We saw that his skill set was much better than his 16-18 year old seniors. His understanding of the game was good and the best part was that he was fearless, which he continues to be. We tested him in the senior module which was not meant for his age bracket. He picked it up faster than his seniors and proved his brilliant acumen for soccer. He is not afraid of heights or physical presence in the game. He is highly adaptable and can play in any environment whether you give him facilities or not,” he said. “He lives to play soccer. That’s all he loves doing. He doesn’t like to study and doesn’t perform well there either. If I tell him to play five matches in a day he will play all five and not be tired. He has a maturity level that is way beyond his years and an unmatched dedication to his game,” Mahapatra exclaims.

According to his coach, his biggest challenge in his hometown is his nutrition. “The only time he gets to eat is the midday lunch in his government school. I give him breakfast in the morning when he comes to train but he is a growing child. He needs a better diet to keep performing like this. He might face taller and stronger people in future and he needs a proper diet to be able to increase his strength. Right now he doesn’t have a support system that encourages him. Nobody cares if he ate, if he is attending school, if he is safe and returns home at a proper time. He needs guidance to not get carried away and take on problems he can’t face. He is after all, a child.” he said.

A report by New Indian Express said that his mother, Duhita Nayak, who works as a domestic help, is raising the entire family. “He always insisted on playing football in the Kalinga stadium. As we stay in its vicinity, in last five years, most of his time was spent there,” Duhita said.“I never thought in my life that any of my children will go overseas. For me, providing livelihood for them is in itself very difficult. I am extremely happy that Chandan was selected to train in Germany,” she added. Even though Chandan did not have his father, he is happy with his passion for football. “For me, the world is my mother and the Kalinga Stadium football ground. I am very happy with my mother and football,” he said in the interview.

Chandan doesn’t speak English but had a few words to add in his Hindi and Odiya. “I am very excited to go to Germany and I promise to beat every strong player there. I want to learn everything I can and represent India in the best way possible. I will play well and study hard also,” he said.

Chandan’s idol is Lionel Messi and he likes every team that he is a part of be it Argentina or Barcelona. “In Germany he will get to play alongside Philipp Lahm and Thomas Muller,” said Mahapatra. “His story will inspire other children form such backgrounds to enter sports and take it up as a discipline. A sport helps such children to attain focus in their lives instead of participating in nefarious activities which is so easy to get into,” he concluded.

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