Sons of Indian sex worker and veggie fryer selected for Manchester United

Published: March 28, 2014

Arko Dey of Calcutta, India has been recruited to play for Manchester United’s under 21 team. Dey is pictured here with his mother, where they work frying veggies. CEN News.


Two Indian slumdogs both aged 16 from Calcutta are hoping to become millionaires after they were selected to train with Manchester United’s under 21 team.

One of the boys is the son of a woman working in the sex trade – one of the city’s 12,000 sex trade workers. And the other gets by helping his mother run a stall that fries vegetables even though they very often didn’t have enough to eat for themselves.

Both boys admitted that they had always dreamed that football might be a way out of poverty and spoke of their joy at being able to tell their mothers that they had been selected to go to Old Trafford.

When not playing football Arko Dey was expected to help his mother preparing the deep fried vegetables for sale at this small stand in Northern Calcutta.

For hours, the mother and son would fry sliced potatoes coated with a flour paste.

He said: “Some days we did okay, but increasingly the number of customers has been fewer and sometimes we sell nothing at all. Our lives up until now have been a rollercoaster always depending on whether we could sell anything. Now, suddenly everything will change I hope.”

He said he had been in tears when he was able to tell his mother that he hoped the family’s money worries would now be over.

Selected to train with the U-21 team of Manchester United, the world’s most followed soccer club, Dey will be heading to Old Trafford shortly.

He said: “The enormity of it is hard to take in. In slum dog millionaire street actors were chosen for Hollywood success. Being chosen by Manchester United from the slums of Calcutta is no less amazing.”

Dey participated in the talent hunt of Airtel Rising Stars in August 2013, and impressed Manchester United soccer school coaches in Goa.

He said: “I was in tears, then my mother was in tears as well. She had never heard of Manchester United but when she realised that what we earn a month is less than it costs just buy a ticket to walk around the football club’s ground – she realised that it must be an important place.”

She had walked more than 5kms from her home to pray for her son when he was to take part in the contest, travelling to the iconic Dakshineswar Kali temple near the Ganges.

Dey does not even have a passport, and he hopes to join a top Indian club on his return.

He said: “I want to earn money, and have a new life, I want to leave my one room home in Baranagar that is by a busy road.”

In fact backfiring trucks and taxis in the area create an almost constant traffic snarl that is one of Calcutta’s worst.

He added: “I do not want her to sell fried vegetables anymore. I am confident of my earnings. No one ignores a footballer who has trained with ManU.”

It was a similar story for the other 16-year-old selected, Rajeeb Roy from Sonagachi, also a north Calcutta neighbourhood and home to an estimated 12,000 sex workers, the largest red-light districts in Asia.

He told his sex worker mum Rekha of his selection to train at Manchester United. He said: “I never had the recognition of my father but this was like a father’s recognition that made all the work worthwhile.

“I had been praying for a breakthrough in soccer ever since he started playing.”

He said that where he lives in the slums, it was just possible to see a small patch of sky that was occasionally blue when not obscured by smoke. He said that for months and indeed years when it was possible to see the stars who was plagued before going to bed that football might be able to supply him with a dream.

Rajib Roy of Calcutta, India has been recruited to play for Manchester United’s under 21 team. CEN News.

The 16-year-old is a class IX student of Rahul Vidya Niketan in Sealdah, a school for sex worker’s children organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee that funds a soccer initiative among children of sex workers in West Bengal.

“I was very nervous when I met the coaches from the Manchester United. I knew I had to perform to get selected,” said Roy, who helped West Bengal win the National Slum Soccer Tournament in Nagpur in 2014.

He plays as a frontliner and loves to dribble, his idol being Oscar, the fleet-footed Brazilian footballer.

He knows, like him, that Oscar also came up from poverty to make a mark.

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