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Barasat buddies net Celtic goal

One’s a right back, the other a striker. Together, they create magic on the field. The partnership between Suman Dutta and Mohammed Habib has won for their school the Under-14 Mahindra Youth Football Challenge trophy and two tickets to Glasgow for the 14-year-old buddies to train at the youth academy of Celtic Football Club.

Not unlike two schoolboys in Maharashtra 25 years ago who notched up a 664-run partnership, the highest for any wicket in any class of cricket — a record that took almost two decades to be bettered and won the boys Ranji berths. Meet the Tendulkar-Kambli of under-14 football in Bengal who too share a coach and can rip apart the opposition with ease, as they did in the football challenge final in Bangalore, where Suman scored one and set up another for Habib, who netted twice.

Suman’s overlapping ability and Habib’s skills with the left foot had coaches from Celtic FC, including Greig Robertson, impressed. “It was an emotional moment. When my name was announced, I started crying,” said Suman, who along with Habib is looking forward to the 10-day camp.

“It’s an honour to be able to train at a famous club like Celtic FC. I learnt a lot at the Bangalore camp and hope to know more about modern football when we get there,” said Habib at his home in Chhoto Jagulia near Barasat. The shelves in the small room are packed with trophies, including one for the highest scorer in the Under-14 Subroto Cup that their school, Ashoknagar Vidyasagar Bani Bhavan, won in 2011.

“Both Suman and Habib have great skills and tremendous energy. Their endurance limit is high and they can play even a 120-minute game. Suman is very good at covering and sending crosses upfront, and Habib has a great left foot,” said former India footballer Goutam Sarkar, who has been training the boys for the last three years.

The boys from Bengal edged past students of six schools from as many cities who fought it out in the final leg of the challenge. Four coaches from the Scottish Premier League club picked 22 players for a four-day camp. Three boys made the final cut based on their performances in the inter-city leg. Lazim Ali of Kerala is the third boy to make it to the 126-year-old club along with Suman and Habib.

The road this far hasn’t been easy for the Barasat boys. Their willpower and passion for the beautiful game helped the Class VIII students overcome all odds in dogged pursuit of the Team India jersey. Sudipto’s father has lost a kidney and makes a living out of floral decorations for weddings, while Habib’s father works at a vegetable stall. Neither family has the means to provide for a footballer’s diet but the boys’ first coaches, Manoranjan Mondal and Pintu Kanjilal, try to pitch in.

“They need proper diet, rest and a fitness regime,” said the under-16 Bengal coach, Trijit Das.

The duo not only share their struggles but also their love for Barcelona, Honey Singh songs and action flicks. Their only point of difference? Suman is a Daniel Alves fan and Habib a keen follower of Messi’s moves.