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

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