The impoverished son of a sex worker in Calcutta’s infamous red-light district has been selected to participate in a Manchester United soccer training camp in England.
Rajib Boy, 16, who lives with his mother in a one-room tenement in Sonagachi, will head to the U.K. in April for the program amid hopes that the sport will liberate them both from poverty, reports the AFP.
Boy won a place in the camp after a nationwide talent contest. He’s one of 11 youngsters invited to join the Manchester United Soccer School, whose namesake team – Manchester United – remains one of the sport’s premiere leagues and counts David Beckham as a former team member.
“I am not ashamed of being a sex worker’s son,” Boy, having been taunted about his mother (who reportedly earns $3 a day), told the AFP. “She is my main source of inspiration. But I want to take her out of the red-light district as early as possible.”
In a country dominated by passion for cricket, Boy developed a love of playing soccer on the teeming streets of Sonagachi, where reports estimate that 11,000 sex workers are packed into multi-storied brothels.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is my idol. I am focusing on scoring goals,” said Boy.
The budding athlete was first spotted by Bishwajit Majumdar, a sports coach with a local organization that helps Calcutta sex workers. Every two years, the group, called Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (it translates to “Unstoppable Women’s Solidarity Committee”), holds a soccer tournament for the children of sex workers from more than 50 red-light districts around the world.
In 2012, Majumdar watched Boy play and singled him out.
“He stood out from the other boys – he is so talented,” Majumdar tells PEOPLE, adding candidly:” “His only drawback is that he is short, but he makes up for it with his ambition.”
Boy and his mother are currently camped out at the local passport office, Majumdar confirms, noting that the youngster doesn’t have official travel documents.
Boy, for his part, is already being treated differently by his peers.
“Other teenagers used to call him names and abuse him and his mother,” says Majumdar. “Now they’re asking him to give them some tips when he returns from Manchester.”