- Machung Bhutia among 16 Indian players chosen for Italian camp
Machung Tshering Bhutia
Gangtok, May 24: An East Sikkim boy who used to play soccer on the water-filled ground of his village school has bagged a training ticket to European football powerhouse Inter Milan, where he will be a part of an Under-15 Indian team that will clash with players from other countries.
The 15-year-old Machung Tshering Bhutia is among 16 players whose names were announced in Calcutta yesterday for a one-month training at Inter Milan. He is a Class IX student of Martam Secondary School in East Sikkim. The players were chosen under Tata Tea Jago Re Soccer Inter Milan Tournament held across the country.
“Inter Milan will conduct a training-cum-tournament for Under-15 players from different countries in August-September. The club is selecting best 16 Under 15 players from different nations to form teams and play the tournament. India is one of the countries,” said Jamshid Nassiri, who oversaw the talent-hunt in India.
Nassiri is a former Iranian footballer and had played for East Bengal as well.
Over 6,500 students in the age group of 10-15 years from 377 schools had taken part in the five-month-long talent hunt. Machung was among the 20 boys chosen for a trial in Calcutta, watched closely by two Inter Milan coaches — Marco Monti and Massimo Ciocci.
Three other boys from Sikkim — Bijay Subba of Sichey Secondary school, Dipendra Rai of Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary, Karma Loday Lepcha of Tashi Namgyal Academy — had also been picked up for the Calcutta trial. Ultimately, four boys were dropped and the 16-member squad was announced yesterday.
Bikash Chettri, Machung’s coach and teacher at Martam Secondary School, said the boy’s selection for the Italy tour was the happiest moment for the institution.
“Machung used to practise on the school ground which used to be filled with water all the time. Now, he will be sharpening his skills at Inter Milan,” said Chettri.
The boy’s family members were also overjoyed by his selection. “I never thought that my son would ever get such a huge opportunity. He was passionate about football and used to practise every morning. His hard work has finally paid off,” Tshering Samdup Bhutia, the boy’s father, told The Telegraph.
Bhutia, a farmer, also thanked his friends and football lovers who sponsored his son’s Calcutta camp.
Machung will reach Gangtok from Calcutta later today and will fly to Italy in August. Before his departure for Italy, the boy will be training at Paljor Stadium here, with the players of United Sikkim in tow.
The Bhaichung Bhutia-owned club has already agreed to train Machung.
“We extend our hearty congratulations to Machung. We are ready to train him till August. Our training will commence in July when the new squad of United Sikkim is picked up. He can practise with the new squad for the whole month. Before that, Machung can joint the training for the local players of United Sikkim that starts in July,” said United Sikkim senior manager Arjun Rai.