Ignoring sounds of bullets, East Bengal footballer excels

By: Sujata Sarkar
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Bengaluru, Dec 14: He lives in Khemkaran village in Punjab which is only one-and-half kilometers away from the Pakistan border.

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And every day he listens to the sounds of bullets, being exchanged on the border by both Indian and Pakistan soldiers.

Mehtab Singh (left) celebrates his goal against Mohun Bagan

Hailing from a disturbed area where the kids are not even allowed to utilise the local grounds, Mehtab Singh has indeed made it big as he is representing the East Bengala u-18 side in the U-18 I-League.

On Tuesday, December 13, the17-year-oldd midfielder scored the all-important goal, guiding his team to a one-goal victory over arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in a crucial under-18 I-League match.

Mehtab when asked about his journey, said: “I travelled around 165 kilometres from Khemkaran to Mahelpur football academy, just to learn the game.

"And while crossing my village the Indian soldiers warned me about the impending danger as the soldiers of both the countries often looked exchanging bullets.

"Still, in spite of keeping my family extremely anxious I managed to travel from my village to Mahelpur football academy.”

Mehtab’s father Buta Singh is a farmer. But Mehtab did not have to go to field to help his father. Rather he would dream of representing big Indian teams.

On his dream, Mehtab said: “There were many boys in our village used to play football. However hockey was favourite in our state. But most of the boys who played football were not ambitious.

"So I had to go to Mahelpur academy. I heard renowned footballers like Baljit Singh Saini and Gurvinder Singh had come up from that academy.”

Coach of the East Bengal under-18 team Ranjan Chowdhury also had praises for his student. He said: “Mehtab’s key strength is his coolness. Even when his team is loitering, Mehtab can keep himself cool and think over how to create chances.”

The youngster, when asked how he can keep himself so cool, said: “It has been possible due to the struggle I have been doing since my childhood.

"It started n village and even in Mahelpur academy where my fellow footballers taunted me and said I would never be able to be a professional footballer.

"And while joining East Bengal from Mahelpur academy, I retorted those footballers saying, I will be representing India one day. Nobody can stop me.”

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