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Euro masterclass for kids

- Big boots inspire little feet

Krishna Goyal is one Spain fan who loves watching rival forwards testing his favourite team’s citadel. Iker Casillas being idle means a lesson less learnt from the match.

Goalkeeper Krishna, 16, is among the many young players in the city who have followed Euro 2012 both as partisan fans and impartial students of the game.

If Krishna wants his hero Casillas to be stretched so that he can learn how to pull off brilliant saves, midfielder Imon Banerjee looks forward to Andres Iniesta being marked so heavily that it forces him to think out of the box.

The duo practise at the Avenue Sammelani Club, Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, as part of a 200-strong group whose homework over the past three weeks has been to watch Euro 2012 live at night or catch the replays in the morning and try out a new move at each practice session.

“I have asked the boys to watch individual players who operate in the positions where they themselves play. The style of football in Europe is different from what they know, so just watching players like Xavi (Hernandez), Nani and Iniesta is an education,” said Bhaskar Mukherjee, one of the coaches at Avenue Sammelani.

Avenue Sammelani has, of course, produced Maidan stars like Subhash Bhowmick, Sukalyan Ghosh Dastidar, Prashanta Banerjee, Shyamal Ghosh and Tushar Rakshit — big boots to fill for Imon, Krishna and their mates.

“There has been a spring in their stride this Euro. It feels good to see youngsters try to emulate (Mario) Gomez’s touch and ball control when he deceived the Dutch defenders to set up his first goal,” coach Mukherjee said.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s spectacular thumping volley for Sweden’s first goal against France is still the talk of the academy, where former Mohammedan Sporting coach Tapan Jyoti Mitra, Biswajit Das and Arjuna award-winner Shanti Mullick also coach.

“I was the lone Sweden fan and the team’s early exit meant I had to endure some ribbing. But the goal Ibrahimovic scored made me forget all that,” smiled 17-year-old Imon, who has signed for fifth-division club Rakhi Sangha.

The student of Lake Point Convent School had been following Mesut Ozil, Steven Gerrard and Iniesta “closely” as part of his Euro coaching.

Italy’s Mario Balotelli, who wasn’t on the coaches and the players’ must-watch list, has overnight become the man for the future. “Balotelli has a knack for being at the right place at the right time,” said Mitra, who had coached the senior Mohammedan Sporting team in the early 1990s.

Mitra has one message for the colts he has been coaching for the Nursery league — learn from watching the stars of “touch football” and enjoy the game. “I always tell the kids to watch how immaculate Spain’s passing is. Their ball possession is high and it helps them break the opposition,” said Mitra.

He and his colleagues think that for those willing to learn, Euro 2012 has been “rich” in its diversity of skills.

So, irrespective of whether Spain defends the cup or not, Krishna knows it’s a win-win situation for him. He will have a lesson each in goalkeeping from Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon to remember this Euro final by.