Getting a contract to play for Galveston Pirates Sc in Texas, United States, Pratik Shinde created history, becoming the youngest kid to get a contract abroad at 15.
A student of Adarsha Vidyalaya at Chembur, Maharashtra Pratik played football in his colony for as long as he can remember. He has had an extremely modest upbringing, Pratik and his family are always faced with severe financial constraints. His mother and his grandmother work as domestic helps, supporting the family ever since his dad passed away. Pratik’s priority would be to support his family, due to which Pratik might never have thought of making a living out of a sport. It was a journey full of hurdles when he and his family decided to do everything it took, for him to use his talent. A decision not made or supported very often, when everyday is a survival for them.Pratiks talent seemed to have proved stronger than his financial constraints. Having noticed the potential in Pratik, the games teacher had him join Kenkre Football Academy for formal football training. While playing for this club, Pratik received an offer to play for Air India U15 team which he politely declined. Later he moved to Andheri Football Academy, where he met his coach Maloy Sengupta, a coach of national prominence, in-charge of the India Under-14 national team. Mr.Sengupta turned out to be one of the catalysts in making Pratik realize his immense potential and encouraging him to pursue a professional career in football. His exceptional performance in the AFA during various age group tournaments paid off, and he was selected for the Under-14 team of the famous Stedfast Academy to play for the Gothia Cup Youth Football Tournament, Sweden. It is a tournament which is considered to be the world’s largest talent hunt, having more than 40,000 players participating from prominent academies, of 65 different countries across the globe. Pratik’s performance hit headlines in Indian media, when he scored against the German youth team during the tournament. The opportunity to play for the Stedfast Academy provided him with valuable exposure, as he participated in tournaments for various age groups in Denmark and Germany.
Pratik seemed to have bagged more than just a goal, “after I had scored the goal coach Keyes had taken my number,” he shares. Little did he know, a year down the line fate would be calling. Meanwhile, Pratik had received an offer to play for Spanish club Alvobendas Fc. Something that would have any aspiring footballer sprinting, Pratik had to let go of this offer due to, financial constraints as he could not manage a sponsor who could bear his travel and logistics expenses.
A door might have closed but somewhere else, a very reputed youth football coach was opening up a window on the World Wide Web in search of the Indian wonder that had caught his eye during the Gothia Cup. Brendan Keyes is a Head Coach of Galveston Pirates SC, also a famous Irish player during his playing days and an Olympic Development Coach since 1996. Keyes also holds the FAI Badge and the USSF National Badge for Soccer Management and Scouting. Sadly, it was no different this time, there were no sponsors and Pratik’s visa had been declined twice. Almost at the end of that rope, Buldana Urban Co-Operative Society Ltd. came forward to help the youngster live his dream.Having offered Pratik the opportunity to play for the club, Keyes had changed Pratiks life in more ways than just improving his skills. He came as the angel the family had prayed for, having realized Pratik’s financial constraints coach Keyes offered to take care of Pratik’s stay, basic requirements and education in America. Coach Keyes was quoted in an interview saying, “He reminded me of myself coming from a poor back ground in Dublin Ireland. He has the desire and passion to play the game. He is a very talented player and the videos I have watched prove that. He kept calling me and never gave up hope".
Pratik has lost out on many years of education due to the setbacks he faced. But he belives that some worked out the others didn’t, but it was all worth it. He is back in India and his current goal is to complete his studies. After which, he intends to tread on every ground it takes, for him to make it as a professional footballer. His dream- a dream very close to every Indian footballer, representing India in the Fifa world cup!
Also read the story of Aakash Dave on the road to ManU