Little India at FIFA 2018
The last two months witnessed millions of football dreams shatter and come true at the same time. Among those who were lucky to have realised their football fantasies were two Indians. Rishi Tej and Nathania John became the country’s first Official Match Ball Carriers (OMBCs) at FIFA World Cup 2018 held in Russia. 10-year-old Rishi Tej from Bengaluru became the first Indian when he walked out with the teams as the ball carrier during the Belgium-Panama group stage match on the 18th of June. Four days later, 11-year-old Nathania John K from Tamil Nadu followed the footsteps of Rishi when she walked out as the ball carrier during the Brazil-Costa Rica group match. An OMBC is generally a kid, who carries the official match ball out on the pitch ahead of each of the FIFA World Cup matches, leading the referees and players. In front of the packed stadium, the kid then hands the ball over to the referee for kick-off. Interestingly, it’s the automobile giant Kia Motors, that made the dreams of this duo come true. The automotive partners for 2018 FIFA World Cup created this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the two children to represent the country at such a big platform. And the duo made the most of this. From 1600 entries across India, 50 were called for the final audition held in May. The audition was judged by Indian football superstar Sunil Chhetri. Chhetri has thanked Kia Motors to give this opportunity to football crazy kids of India, also emphasising the importance of such initiatives in the bigger scheme of things. When we think about Rishi and Nathania rubbing shoulders with the likes of Neymar and Eden Hazard, it does fill a country deprived of footballing success, with a lot of optimism.
Nathania John and Rishi Tej