Odisha: Kalinganagar boy trained at Tata Steel Academy makes it to the Army

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Report by Akshya Rout; Kalinganagar: The dream of a young footballer from the hinterlands of Kalinganagar has finally come true. When he enrolled at Tata Steel’s Football Coaching Centre at Baghuapal four years ago, Vikram Gagrai, now 15-years-old, never imagined that he would one day join the Indian Army’s sports cadre.

Presently, 13 such Centres are being run by Tata Steel across Odisha – of which two are in Bamnipal (Rasol and Tangariapal), four in Kalinganagar (Dakshinposi, Baghuapal, Nakadei and Mirgichera), three in Joda (Bamebari, Joda, Guruda) and four in Sukinda (Garamia, Kalarangiatta, Katepurty Nagar and Kakudia). Each Centre trains and
supports 25-30 budding footballers.

During a trial organised at Jamshedpur by the Danapur Indian Army Sports Cadre, all the young boys currently being trained at Tata Steel’s Football Coaching Centres in Jharkhand and Odisha participated. Vikram was selected at these trails and he is now receiving both training and an education at the Army Camp.

Vikram’s family is over the moon with his success and the prospect of a bright career with the Indian Army. His father, Singrai Gagrai, who has nine children, is very upbeat about this. His friends who are continuing training at the centre have started dreaming of following in his footsteps.

“I used to go to school but was not regular. After school, I used to spend time at home or play with friends in the village, not necessarily football. But when the coaching centre was started at ourvillage, I along with other boys of my village and surrounding areas eagerly took admission. It was all free. We were given jerseys, shoes,
balls and food. There was a coach also. In the very beginning, we hadbeen told to be disciplined. Going to school was a must for all the boys. We were also told to be regular in reaching the ground on time.

We all enjoyed it from the very first day. We had no idea that it could lead to a career in sports or a job. We just played and followed the coach. Every year we were taken to Jamshedpur for trials. This time I was selected by the Army’s Danapur unit. I am very happy. My family is happier,” says Vikram. A total of 12 boys from Kalinganagar, Joda and Bamnipal have been selected by different sports academies from different parts of the country. They are now an inspiration for hundreds of other boys from the region.

The under-10 football coaching centres are not only honing the soccer skills of rural children but also teaching them to become disciplined in daily life. Coaching is held only before or after the school hours
for four days in a week so that their education is not disturbed. In fact, the coach at every centre ensures that each boy attends his school regularly.

Every year trials are held at Jamshedpur in which all the boys who are undergoing the coaching take part and compete for place in Tata Football Academy (TFA). Efforts are also made to place the kids in some of the reputed football academies in the country.

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