Kerala boy R Manikandan’s story comes across as the quintessential rags to riches story. Rescued while begging with his sister on the streets of Kerala by a children’s home back in 2011, this 14-year-old is now set to live his dream for a month-long stay in Spain alongside the stars of the iconic La Liga club Real Madrid. Clearly, this 14-year-old’s life was nothing like what we know of him today.
Life took an unexpected turn for Manikandan when Sreekumar, the supervisor at the children’s home that rescued him, started taking inmates of the dilapidated orphanage to the nearby Fathima Mata College grounds in Kollam due to lack of space. While initially, nobody cared about the bunch and they were just limited to collecting oddballs that went across the field. However, coach MP Abhilash, who used to train senior players at the same ground discovered his potential and gave him a chance to play with the senior. This game turned out to be a life changer for the now the under-15 player of the I-League.
Since his ‘accidental’ discovery, there has been no looking back for this dextrous footballer. The six-foot lanky teenager is not much of a speaker, but his game speaks volumes, says the supervisor of the children’s home. Manikandan is all set to fly to Spain in July for his month-long trip following which he will be sent to US or a Latin American country by football lovers in the southern city to develop further techniques.
Manikandan now represents the district and Football Plus Professional Soccer Academy in Chennai. It was here in Chennai that some foreign coaches told the academy about his hidden talents and suggested his name for the special training. Coach Abhilash, who will accompany him to Madrid, said that it is his ”technique and agility ” that give him an edge over others while his height adds on to his prowess.
For Manikandan, an ardent Lionel Messi fan, football is his passion. He says he owes everything to his coach and supervisor of the children’s home. Like every upcoming footballer, the gifted stopper back wants to don the Indian colours and play top class football for a professional club.