Image Source: Getty Images

Kolkata, Oct 12 (IANS) A day after their hard fought win over Mexico in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the England players on Thursday spent a casual afternoon, showcasing their skills and encouraging a bunch of school kids at a picturesque school football ground at Newtown here.

Enjoying a day off from the practice session, the heroes from the previous night like Rhian Brewster, Callum Hudson Odoi, Jadon Sancho and skipper Joel Latibeaudiere spent quality time at the Newtown School ground, looking amazed at the enthusiasm and excitement around them.

Apart from the students, young players promoted by the British Council’s ‘Kolkata GoalZ’ project and ‘DOSTI sports for peace’ that aims to empower young people from disadvantageous background through sports, also got a chance to meet the English players.

Some of them were seen posing for the occasional selfies with the local kids as well as with the school teachers and officials who looked equally thrilled at the opportunity to rub shoulders with the future superstars of English football.

The young lions also gave the students a lesson or two about the beautiful game. They started off by playing one touch football with the local kids and then showcased some of their usual practice routines as the students watching the action on the ground cheered on.

Sancho, who has already found the net three times in the first two matches of the World Cup,, was the centre of attraction and a crowd favourite. The young striker was constantly egged on by the crowd whenever he touched the ball or showed glimpses of his dribbling skills.

British Deputy High Commissioner Bruce Bucknell, who was present during the programme, said the coaches and administrators in his country’s academies were interested in doing their bit for the development of Indian football.

“These kids are from some great youth academies in England. The level of technical skills and ball control we see from these players are fantastic. I am happy that the British footballers, coaches and administrators are helping to work out the game in India. We are hoping to develop the sport of football including the growth of academies in India,” Bucknell said.

“However, the academy is just for the few. To get the best kids, you need many to play and that’s where the community football comes in. In India, we need more people to coach players at the lower level. We are giving great a great support to develop the echo system of football in the country,” he added.

The shutterbugs, gathering at the sidelines, hailed Sancho every now and then, asking him to pose and the man of the moment did not disappoint. Some enthusiasts even entered the ground to get a better shot of the players giving the event organisers a tough time.

“We are really excited to see them from close. It is a wonderful opportunity for us who play football at the junior level in school. They are so humble in spite of being such stars. Interacting with them and seeing them play will surely increase our love for the game,” a student of class eight from the school said.

The heat and humidity failed to dampen the spirit of the players as they tirelessly juggled with the ball while chit chatting with the young players from local football academies.

At the end of the event, long queues of school students, both boys and girls could be seen busy collecting autographs from their favourite players.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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