The India squad for the Under-17 football World Cup that it will host in October has been boosted with the inclusion of Namit Deshpande, a US-based NRI scouted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) through its overseas scouting portal. The website launched last year in collaboration with Sports Authority of India saw young NRI footballers, with valid Indian passports, uploading their videos in an attempt to catch selectors' eye. The AIFF received 50 applications, but it was Deshpande, son of New Jersey-based architects and originally from Mumbai, who impressed the most.
Deshpande travelled to Brazil where the Indian team, then under coach Nicolai Adam, was on a exposure trip. Adam was impressed by the youngster who plays in central defence. When Portuguese coach Luis de Matos took charge, Namit reached the Goa camp, and after showing off his skills over a four-day period proved that he was as good, if not better, than the boys in training.
In the US since 2006, Deshpande has the tiny matter of handing in his school assignments before he joins the rest of the squad travel to Portugal early next month. The Indian team is currently touring Europe and is scheduled to play a series of friendlies in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Hungary. “I am pleased the overseas scouting project has helped us unearth an NRI suited to represent India,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said.