The power of football beyond Rabbi's imagination
Golam Rabbi had never been out of the country before. The class-VI student from Narayanganj had, in fact, never stayed out of his house for long. All he cared for was football, which he used to play with his friends in his neighbourhood and the football academy he had enrolled into. He would not care much about studies, so much so that his father, a small trader of the town, had once thrown away all his sports gears.
But the youngster, a forward by choice, kept doing what he loved and what he excelled in, with support from his mother. His devotion and dedication has been rewarded in grand style, and it has opened up a new world before him -- a world he never knew existed.
Rabbi is in Saint Petersburg, Russia now, 6,092 kilometres away from home, playing the game and learning things he would probably not have if it was not for football. Rabbi is in Russia now as a proud participant of the fifth season of Football For Friendship (F4F) which is a social project initiated and run annually by FIFA's official partners Gazprom. The binding theme of the project is football, but it encompasses a much larger platform with the aim of spreading friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honour among the world's children.
The Bangladesh youngster was selected two months ago from a trial of 200 footballers for this event, and during this time, his devotion to the game has only grown stronger. "I never dreamt that I would be playing football at an international tournament like this. I didn't even know the name of this country before I got into the trial," said the youngster with a candid expression while talking to this reporter at the lobby of a sprawling hotel in Saint Petersburg on Saturday morning.
Saint Petersburg came with a lot of firsts in Rabbi's life, not the least of which is boarding an airplane and coming to a foreign land, unlike anything back home, and experiencing the true spirit of an international congregation.
"The first time I boarded a plane, I was afraid. But my fellow delegates reassured me. Now I am feeling much better. In the last four days, I have been enjoying my time playing football and getting to know other kids my age."
Sharing his hotel room with young footballers from Poland and Macedonia, Rabbi says he is not feeling awkward or out of place at all. He had in fact picked some basic skills in English and communication, apart from skills in dribbling, controlling and shooting the ball, over the two past months. And on top of that he is learning of the perks that modern day football, or any sport for that matter, brings with it.
"We were taken to quite a few places to tour in this city. I had never seen things like this before or been inside a hotel like this before," the youngster said.
Rabbi wanted to do well in the F4F tournament so that he would be chosen by the Bangladesh Football Federation for further training. Unfortunately his team got knocked out in the first match so he didn't get to show his potential to the fullest, but he will surely take a lot back home with him, after having spent a week among the kids of the world and having the prized opportunity of meeting Diego Maradona and watching the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup live at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.