Two poor Indian teenagers, one the son of a sex worker and the other a street vendor, are among young players chosen to take part in a Manchester United Football Club training camp.
Rajib Boy, whose mother earns 200 rupees (£2) a day, said he was dreaming big after being selected to travel to Britain next month for the Manchester United Soccer School after a talent hunt.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is my idol. I am focusing on scoring goals,” Rajib said in Sonagachi, the red-light district in India’s eastern city of Kolkata, where he lives with his mother in a one-room home in a run-down building.
Often derided because of his mother’s work, the 16-year-old said he was too focused on training hard at his local Kolkata school to care what others thought.
“I am not ashamed of being a sex worker’s son. She is my main source of inspiration. (But) I want to take her out of the red light district as early as possible,” Rajib told AFP recently.
“Every day I am visiting a temple of (Hindu god) Lord Shiva to pray for my son’s success,” his mother said.
Rajib was one of 11 teenagers chosen in February to take part in the one-off training camp, following a nationwide talent hunt for trials held by club coaches in the seaside state of Goa in the cricket-mad country.
India’s telecom giant Bharti Airtel, a club sponsor, organised the trials.
Arka Dey, 16, said he was looking forward to the chance of fulfilling his father’s wishes after he died from cancer three years ago.
“My father was a fan of Brazilian star Pele. He was my first coach,” he said.
“I still can’t believe that I have been selected,” said Arka, who helps his mother run a roadside snack-stall in Kolkata.
“If I score a goal for one team, I am hired to play for another team and I earn a little money,” he said, imagining what could happen.
“One of my neighbours has promised me to buy me a nice kit and good pair of shoes before I leave,” he said.
After she heard the news, his mother Suchanda said she walked five kilometres (three miles) to a temple to offer prayers.
Although India is best known for its devotion to cricket, English football’s globally popular Premier League has started to make inroads in recent years. Liverpool have set up an “International Academy” in the western city of Pune.