Rajasthan’s 40-year long wait of producing a national talent has finally come to an end as Udaipur-based Zinc Football Academy’s Mohammed Kaif has etched his name in the history books by playing a pivotal role in India’s victorious campaign at the SAFF Under-16 Championship in Bhutan.
15-year-old Mohammed Kaif, hailing from Makrana city in Rajasthan, was scouted by Zinc Football Academy, a CSR initiative of Hindustan Zinc, in 2018. Kaif’s journey from the Academy to the national team is a testimony of Hindustan Zinc’s commitment to the development of football at the grassroots level and further, consolidates its role in the development of Rajasthan as well as Indian Football.
On this joyous occasion, Arun Misra, CEO – Hindustan Zinc, quoted: “We would like to congratulate the entire India Under-16 team and our Zinc Football Academy player Mohammed Kaif on winning the prestigious SAFF Championship. In just over 5 years of Zinc Football’s existence, it has already produced a national talent from Rajasthan and we will whole-heartedly continue to push our boundaries in producing more such talents for the country. This is just the beginning.”
Annanya Agarwal, President, Vedanta Sports, was delighted with the achievement. He said: “We are really proud of our boy Kaif. The hard work that goes into our training and other planning to cultivate such extraordinary talents is driven by a vision to make a positive impact at the grassroots level and further empower the youth in the local communities of Rajasthan. Grassroots intervention is of paramount importance for the upliftment of Indian Football and we are thrilled with the results of our Zinc Football project so far.”
India defeated Bangladesh 2-0 in the final of the 2023 SAFF Under-16 Championship and remained unbeaten in the coveted tournament. Defender Kaif played an instrumental role in the team’s success, keeping cleansheets in all the four matches and further, scoring one crucial goal in the semi-final versus Maldives. Kaif also captained India in the opening encounter of the tournament versus Bangladesh.
Prior to Mohammed Kaif, Sahil Poonia and Ashish Mayla from Zinc Football Academy have already represented India at the international stage with the former making his debut at the same SAFF Championship last year.