For the Guwahati teenagers Birendra Rabha Singh, Nikhil Deka and Pragyan Medhi, football is their first and only love. And their relationship with the beautiful game is so strong that from being absolutely nothing, they have started to climb the ladder of success to the next level.
If Birendra and Nikhil – both goalkeepers have been roped in by Indian Super League (ISL) clubs, Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC, Pragyan is a proud member of India Under-17 team for the last one and half years.
“I’m leaving a dream. I never want to wake up from it,” reads the WhatsApp display profile of Birendra.
The 16-year-old goalkeeper is obviously in cloud nine after the Kerala side recruited him for their reserve team. “It’s a huge opportunity for me and I want to make the best use of it,” an excited Birendra told The News Mill. Birendra has a 3-year contract and Nikhil has a 5-year deal with their respective clubs.
The trio has a single common factor to thank for their success – Lutuma Football Academy and Subam Rabha.
Nikhil, the 6.1 feet goalkeeper, has already joined the team NEUFC in Goa and is looking forward to being a part of the highest league of Indian football. And Pragyan has been a part of the Indian under 17 side for the last more than 18 months.
Pragyan has represented India in several tournaments in China, UAE and Malaysia among others.
Their journey began from a dusty uneven small ground in Lutuma in Guwahati in 2012. Subam Rabha, a local player turned coach, initiated to invite the kids to play the game.
Subam named it Lutuma Football Academy and taught the kids the ABC of the beautiful game.
“It was in 2012. Initially, around six to seven kids turned out. Among these were Birendra, Nikhil and Pragyan,” recalls Subam. The 26-year-old Subam is the youngest AFC B licensed coach in Assam.
It was like a community service by Subam just to provide the basic training of football to the local players. He taught the locals without any fee. South Point School helped Subam with balls.
Subam too is excited at the success of the boys. “It’s really difficult to get a place in the ISL teams. There is so much competition. In the clubs like Kerala Blasters, to get a seat in the reserve team is not a joke. It’s a huge opportunity for the players to get high level training facilities and they will get to learn from some of the best in the business.
Birendra was with the Reliance Foundation for five years which helped him to better his skills.
“I was selected in 2015 for five years. It was a huge learning experience for me to get the training under several high quality coaches. I became more disciplined staying with the foundation. My game has improved a lot,” the 16-year-old, adds. Birendra has also got the opportunity to play against Real Madrid youth team and Aston Villa youth team among others.
And for Nikhil and Prgyan too, their journey started in a similar way. “I have no words to say thanks to Subam sir. Whatever I’m today, it’s because of him. He guided me and others like an elder brother,” says Nikhil.
The 18-year-old lanky goalie has his stints with East Bengal youth team and Fateh Hyderabad among others before finally drawing the attention of the NEUFC.
“I know, it’s a huge opportunity for me to improve myself. I’m very happy and want to give my best,” Nikhil says.
Pragyan, a defensive midfielder, wants to make it big from this level. His father was also a footballer who represented India in junior level and played for Mohammedan Sporting among others.
Pragyan, a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Indian midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh, says that he wants to give his best and to make the best use of the facilities he is getting at the India camp.
Though he is currently at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is hoping to get back to action soon.