Driven by passion, he dreamt of crafting a career out of football. He is just 15 but has his priorities in place: football -- and then the rest. Good at maths, Kartikeya Swarup is better at football. His pursuit takes wings now as he chases his ambition to scorch the football turf.
Recently, at the Airtel Rising Stars all-India Talent Hunt, he earned a ticket, from a group of 20,000 kids, to train at the Manchester United Soccer School. He flies out next month to attend a week-long stint at the Carrington Stadium. A Manchester United Premier League match at Old Trafford will be his moment to savour.
Kartikeya is a student of Delhi Public School, Noida, and a pupil of football coaches Anadi Barua and Dinesh Bisht. To gain recognition for the upcoming trip to Manchester, it was a tough grind. “The players were tested on the basis of physical fitness, individual skills, response to match situations. Kartikeya was a special talent and I never had doubts about his ability to make an impact. This is just the beginning,” said Mr. Barua.
Family support mattered for Kartikeya. His father (Anurag) and mother (Chhavi) ensured he got the space to play football but not at the cost of studies. Elder brother Tushar, an engineering student, was his biggest fan. “I am lucky I always got the backing from my family. On my part I ensured 75 to 80 per cent marks in my exams. Once that was done, my family stood behind me,” said Kartikeya.
Like most kids, he began with cricket but gave up soon: “I found it boring!”
Kartikeya loves hard work and cricket did not offer that platform. “I didn’t find cricket exciting. You stayed in one place for too long, doing nothing. You moved only if the ball came to you. It is so different in football. You can’t stand still on the field even when away from action. The intensity of football exhilarates me.”
His early lessons were learnt from Mr. Bisht, a football coach who works at the grassroots level. Kartikeya divided his coaching time between Mr. Bisht and Mr. Barua and showed decent progress when he represented India (Under-13) at the AFC Football Festival in Iran in 2009. His efforts were reflecting well on the field and then came the opportunity to vie for training at Manchester.
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are his domestic favourites but it is Manchester United that he admires. For this youngster, the Indian Premier League fades in comparison to the English version. “The EPL is fast, the matches are engaging and the endurance factor is amazing. The players just don’t tire in EPL.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is known universally for his exceptional skills on the wings. Kartikeya, motivated by the Portuguese star, decided to develop his skills as a winger: “Ronaldo is magic!” With encouragement from family, teachers and friends, Kartikeya hopes some day he will play in a packed stadium and send the audience in raptures. This is his favourite dream as he packs his bags to fly to Manchester.