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US-based NRI footballer Namit Deshpande impresses India U-17 World Cup set-up

Abhishek Yadav, Namit Deshpande and Luís Norton de Matos (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) novel concept of launching the first-ever online overseas scouting portal among all Sports Federations in India has borne fruit as US NRI Namit Deshpande is all set to become the first scouted player from the portal to play for India.

Despande, who possesses a valid Indian Passport had appeared for trials in Goa under the watchful eyes of India U-17 World Cup Team Head Coach Luís Norton de Matos and will be officially joining the Indian U-17 World Cup squad presently on an Exposure Tour in Europe.

The squad is scheduled to play series of friendly matches in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Spain, Hungary and the Lazio Cup in Italy.

The ambitious SAI–AIFF Overseas Scouting Project (OSP) in collaboration with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) was conceptualised by AIFF in May 2016 followed by a pilot project in UAE. That was followed by the launch of a dedicated portal scouting.the-aiff.com in September 2016 by Shri Vijay Goel, Hon. Minister of State (I/C), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYA&S).

Commenting on the development, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said he was “extremely pleased.”

“I am extremely pleased that the overseas scouting project has helped us unearth a NRI who is suited to represent India in the U-17 World Cup. I am aware of the efforts being put in by the player, his parents and the scouting team to make this possible,” he said.

“I need to thank Honourable Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Shri. Vijay Goel and SAI DG Mr. Injeti Srinivas & for the continuous support to the project,” Das added.

Head Coach Luís Norton de Matos admitted that he had “liked the concept the moment it was presented” to him.

“The moment Abhishek (Yadav) told me about this, I was impressed and optimistic. It is simple yet unique. With so many Indians living overseas, it expands our options. In fact, many other countries could use this programme,” he stated.

Ahishek Yadav, presently employed as Director, Scouting, AIFF informed “he was flooded by profiles on the scouting portal” ever since its official launch.

“We received many profiles and went through all of them. It was at that time that Namit who plays as a Central Defender caught my eye. We followed it up and Namit was here for the trials in Goa. Coach Matos was impressed with his talent, his work ethics and asked him to join the exposure tour in Europe,” he said.

Meanwhile, Namit Deshpande thanked AIFF for providing him the platform to represent India.

“I was excited when I came to know that a window for NRI players exists wherein they could present their talent and play for India, that too in a FIFA World Cup! I sent my playing video to the AIFF without wasting much time and to my surprise, I received a response soon,” he uttered.

“However, when Abhishek-Sir first approached my parents to discuss trials and the way forward, we were a touch uncertain especially with respect to my academic calendar. But my parents in consultation with Abhishek-Sir have gone the extra mile to put things into place. I know I have to now stay fit and give my best on the field,” he added.

Kushal Das further stated that he is “keenly looking forward to more such selections.”

“I am taking personal interest in activating our global contacts to provide assistance to deserving NRI players wherever possible,“ he informed.

(AIFF Media)