Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chumbung’s Uttam Rai listed among top 10 players to watch at Dallas Cup in USA

GANGTOK, 16 March: Uttam Rai from Chumbung is not yet 16, but ever since he caught the eye of talent scouts back in 2007 [when he was selected under the ‘Search for More Bhaichungs” scheme and enrolled at Namchi Sports Hostel], he has been dazzling a blistering record with his prodigious footballing skills. The striker is currently in training with the India U16 team in Florida and will be wearing the national colours at the Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup [U16 category] scheduled to begin on 01 April in the US. Already marked as an important find, he has been a regular with the national squad ever since he was selected for the India U14 team in 2010. His talent has also been recognised by organisers of the Dallas Cup, who, in their listing of “Top 10 Players to watch at Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup XXXIII”, have included Uttam’s name.
This is how the tournament’s website introduces Uttam to the soccer fans in America: “[Uttam] Rai is arguably the best youth prospect for the populous nation of India. He will be looking to make his mark on Dallas Cup in 2012 after being injured in this same tournament last season. This attacking talent has trained with Arsenal FC of England in the past.”
For the record, Uttam is among the top-10 talents to watch out for in the entire tournament, which includes seven age categories up to U20 teams, and not just the U16 squads.
Dallas Cup is the oldest international youth soccer tournament in the United States, celebrating its 33rd year this year. The Texas Longhorns Soccer Club founded the tournament and it was originally a way for the club to return the friendship shown to their teams that had travelled throughout Europe. Since its inception in 1980, Dallas Cup has played host to teams and referees from over 45 states, 100 countries and 6 continents.
The tournament is played in seven age-groups starting from U12 and entertains on average more than 1,60,000 spectators during the week, watching teams from all over the world participate in an extremely intense, explosive and competitive tournament where only the best return home champions.
The India U16 team has been included in Bracket D of its age-group alongside Houston Dynamo U15 Pre Academy (TX), West Coast FC (CA) and Dallas Texans White West (N-TX). This category has seven pools of four teams each. India plays its first match on 01 April against Dallas Texans White West at Richland College Field.
Uttam is expected to do well in the tournament given that this will be his second time there. He was in the U15 India team at the Dallas Cup last year but could not play due to an injury picked up in the friendlies played in the run up to the tournament. Before his injury however, when the U15 team was in training at the IMG Academy in Florida, Uttam underlined his credentials as a striker in several matches. Playing for the U15 team, he scored a hat-trick against IMG U18 in March last year, sealing a 3-0 win over the senior team. Before that, he had slammed 4 goals against Florida U15 to set up a 7-0 victory.
Uttam was selected by Reliance Industries Ltd for a sports scholarship in 2010 and he placed in Florida for a 9- month training camp. He was first noticed in the “Search for More Bhaichungs” scheme of the Sports and Youth Affairs Department and selected to study and train at Namchi Sports Hostel in 2007-08. While playing for Sikkim at Subroto Mukherjee Cup in Delhi, his talent was noticed and was picked up on scholarship by Air Force, New Delhi in 2009. The next year, he was included in the India U14 team.

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