Goan footballer Raju Vasudev Haldankar, who has never flown in an airplane in his life, will now have a chance to take a dream flight to the United States with a shot at making an NFL (National Football League) career. For someone who has only played conventional football - or soccer - it could be a life-changing shift to a league which has the Superbowl as its final.
The 22-year-old came through the ranks at Sesa Football Academy and played for Goan club Salgaocar as well and has emerged as the big winner in the national finals of the Million Dollar Kick event. His 55-yard kick was enough to win the final at Siri Fort Sports Complex in Delhi.
The finalists were chosen after try outs in Delhi, Goa, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Shillong, Dehradun and Lucknow and makes Haldankar $5000 richer. But it's not about the money - this is about a chance to break into the NFL, where no Indian has set foot before.
"It's a great feeling when you win something big. It gives me a chance to represent my nation at the biggest stage in the world. Even though I won, I have massive respect for my fellow participants as they are among India's best kickers," Haldankar said.
Haldankar won the National Finals at the Siri Fort Sports Complex, where it all began a month ago, with a neat 55-yard kick. The first and second runner-up were Dylan D’Costa, who a wildcard from Goa and Gnanendrasinh Jhala, winner of the Ahmedabad try outs.
Apart from the three winners, three other potential stars were also chosen to train in the USA.