India was first represented at FIFA back in 2002 by Tamil referee K Sankar when he assisted in three matches. Sixteen years later, Tamil Nadu will again leave its mark on the Football World Cup. Nathania John K, an 11-year-old from the Niligiris in Tamil Nadu, will lead Neymar’s Brazil on to the field as the Official Match Ball Carrier (OMBC) in their Group E game against Costa Rica at Arena St Petersburg on June 22.
Nathania was chosen earlier this month along with 10-year-old Rishi Tej from Karnataka to go to the World Cup by FIFA’s official partner KIA. They were picked through a contest which tested their football skills
Nathania was the only girl to make it to the top among 50 other competitors after impressing judge and India captain Sunil Chhetri.
“I play as a centre forward for my senior school team and have been going to several camps in Coimbatore to hone my skills for the last two years. So I was at ease when they asked me to show my dribbling, juggling and penalty shooting skills. I have seen that girls don’t play much football in India. So I hope that my selection opens the window for young girls to take up football and break all stereotypes,” she said.
Nathania is a fan of Lionel Messi and Barcelona. She has 17 scrapbooks filled with pictures of the Argentine legend. Though she won’t be able to meet her idol, she is looking forward to getting autographs of all the Brazil and Costa Rica stars like Neymar, Coutinho, Marcelo and Keylor Navas when they line up at the tunnel.
“I was sad when Neymar left Barcelona. But now that I will get a chance to meet him, the pain has eased a bit. I am planning to take his autograph along with Barcelona’s latest sensation Coutinho and all others. Also Messi will be travelling to Saint Petersburg for their last game. So I am not giving up hope on a chance meeting with him. If I do meet him, it will be an icing on the cake,” said Nathania.
Way to go, girl!
Picture Credit: Indian Women Blog
Apoorva Lamba is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv