The world of sports has a few inspiring rags to riches stories, where an athlete has risen to the top by sheer talent, driven by determination and fighting all odds.
Champions like Pele and Diego Maradona were born in difficult circumstances. But pushed on and showed the world what they are capable of, and are now equated to gods by their adoring fans.
A similar story is that of a rising football star from India, Abhijit Sarkar.
He was discovered by Ashok Mondal, a football coach, who trains kids in West Bengal’s Bandel town for free, reported Scroll. At age six, Abhijit could dribble the ball past older kids with speeds that is not normal for children at that age.
Ten years later Abhijit is a star striker in India U-17 team. He dons the No 10 jersey, a prestigious number that legends like Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and others have used over the years. With a goal against an Italian youth team and six goals against Botswana, Abhijit Sarkar has rightfully earned the prestigious Jersey number.
However, his journey up until now has been of hardships and struggles.
Born in Bandel, a town situated 40 kilometres away from Kolkata, Abhijit is the only child of Haren and Aloka Sarkar. Haren is a van-rickshaw driver while Aloka binds bidis (local cigarettes) together at a grocery shop. They still live in a makeshift house situated near the famous Bandel church.
“His family was so poor that they could not afford to buy him a simple jersey, forget about the shoes,” said Mondal to Scroll.
His parents were also supportive of his dreams of becoming a footballer, but had no money to buy the equipment needed. In fact, Abhijit’s father said that there were days when they had no money for food.
Haren would earn Rs 100-150 per day and Aloka would bring Rs 25.
Mondal and Abhijit’s uncle chipped in to make sure he got the equipment he needed.
He went on to represent West Bengal at the sub-junior national championship, where the Indian selectors spotted him and was eventually picked to train at the All India Football Federation Academy in 2013.
“He went to Kolkata for trials for the AIFF academy,” said Mondal. “From there he went to Goa as well and then there was no looking back. He is very friendly and he respects everyone. He has immense willpower and never got bogged down by any situation.”
His parents will however miss the New Delhi match since Abhijit’s mother is unwell.
But his parents have immense trust on his capabilities. And so does his team. A man who can rise to the top fighting such odds with determination and sheer willpower is not somebody you mess with.