The Under-17 Indian football team.
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U-17 World Cup: The Families That Gave India Its Football Stars

Apart from their footballing skills and the passion to play for India, the one thing that really binds the 21 members of the India under-17 football team is that most of them come to the world stage battling hardships and financial crisis.

And their families have stood by them every single day, first identifying the talent in their children and then making immense sacrifices to see them play for India.

Amarjit Singh Kiyam, the Son of a Carpenter and Fish Seller

Amarjit is the captain of the India U-17 team.

Amarjit Singh Kiyam, the captain of the India U-17 team is from Thoubal, Manipur.

Amarjit’s elder brother, Umakanta, was instrumental in getting him to play the sport professionally. He gave a trial for the Chandigarh Football Academy when he was only 10 years old, and even got selected.

Amarjit’s mother sells fish in Imphal to support her son.

But travelling to Chandigarh meant a huge financial burden for Amarjit’s parents. His father, Chandramani Singh Kiyam, is a carpenter and mother, Ashangbi Devi, still goes house to house selling dry fish.

Jitendra Singh Rose From the Slums of Kolkata to Play for India

Jitendra Singh is a defender in the India U-17 team.

Defender Jitendra Singh is from Kolkata. Growing up in the slums of Alipore, Jitendra and his elder brother wanted to be cricketers but the family couldn’t afford the high expense of cricket coaching. So, the brothers started playing football, which was a relatively less expensive sport to play.

Jitendra was six years old then, and by 11, he was already playing for local clubs in Kolkata.

Jitendra Singh’s mother Hema Devi sustains the family with her tailoring. 

His father, Ravinder Singh, is a watchman but he’s mostly home due to an illness. So the burden of earning for the family is on Jitendra’s mother, Hema Devi. She’s a tailor and stitches clothes at home. She’s also the decision maker at home, keeping her children grounded but at the same time encouraging them to work hard to realise their dreams.

A Football Jersey Seller's Son Plays for India

Sanjeev Stalin is a defender in the India U-17 team.

Bangaluru boy Sanjeev Stalin is a defender in the team. His mother, Parmeshwari, said that as a child, Sanjeev used to dream about the sport. Initially, the family didn’t know how to hone his skill and had only heard of the Chandigarh Football Academy.

Sanjeev Stalin’s mother sells sports jerseys in Bangaluru.

It was a big decision to send young Sanjeev to the academy, but it is that decision that eventually paved the way for him into the team. Even today, Sanjeev’s mother can be seen on a pavement on KR Puram selling sports jerseys. It is this business that has kept the family and Sanjeev’s training going.

From Hitting Tennis Ball to Playing Football for India

Boris Singh plays as a defender in the U-17 team.

As a young boy, defender Boris Singh first started playing football with a tennis ball. His parents wanted him to play and study at the same time. However, one incident changed their mind.

One day, while playing for his school team, his father saw him make a terrific pass. It was then that he decided that his son should try to become a professional footballer.

Defender Boris Singh started playing football with a tennis ball!

And today, this boy from Imphal will be donning the tricolour in the Under-17 World Cup.

Bureau Inputs & Camera: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum (Imphal), Chandni Sharma (Kolkata), Roshni Balaji (Bengaluru)

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

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