Kollam: Dressed in rags, carrying a begging bowl and clutching his younger sister’s hand, he once wandered homeless from place to place living hand-to-mouth. Today, he is getting ready to fly to Spain to undergo training at the Real Madrid football academy.
Manikandan’s story is real, and more inspiring than any celluloid fare!
Seven years ago, when Child Protection authorities spotted the scrawny, bedraggled young boy and his sister near the Oachira temple in Kollam, they were leading a nomadic existence, begging for alms from passerby, and sleeping on the temple premises. The officials took the kids, who were abandoned by their parents, to the Government Children’s Home in Kollam where they remained for the rest of their childhood.
In the meantime, the caretakers of the orphanage spotted Manikandan’s innate talent and passion for football and encouraged him to play. That opportunity sparked some very big ambition in the teenager as he realized football could be both his career and salvation.
After learning the nuances of the game, he joined the Football Plus Professional Soccer Academy in Chennai and his talent was on display for all to see during the Junior I-League.
Manikandan’s exploits at the grassroots talent development championship attracted the attention of the foreign coaches at the national-level camp and they recommended him for a one-month training stint at Santiago Bernabeu, the home stadium of Real Madrid.
A naturally gifted stopper back, Manikandan is now dreaming of making it big in the sport. Like every other young aspiring footballer in the country, his ultimate dream is to don the Indian colors and play for world’s top-flight clubs.
Manikandan, who is in ninth standard now, hopes that the training at Real Madrid would help him hone his skills and techniques and make him a better player.
Although he will be training at the Real Madrid academy, Manikandan’s favorite player is Lionel Messi, the star player of the Madrid side’s bitter rivals Barcelona.
Putting the dark past behind him, the youngster is now confident of tackling any challenge thrown at him. He hopes that this dream ticket to Spain would give wings to his soccer ambitions.