Bayern Munich have called up Indian teenager Shubho Paul to their FC Bayern World Squad, the culmination of an online talent hunt to build a 15-man team of U19 prospects.
A total of 654 players - born in either 2003 or 2004 - from 64 nations applied to be part of the programme by submitting video clips to a coaching team comprising club legend Giovane Elber, former Bayern captain and FIFA World Cup winner Klaus Augenthaler and international FCB youth coach Christopher Loch.
The final 15 will be put through their paces digitally and kitted out with individually tailored training plans, before taking part in a training camp and match between the World Squad and Bayern U19s in Munich.
Paul is one of the lucky 15. The 17-year-old striker has been making waves since being picked up by Sudeva FC, aged 13. He scored 58 goals in 14 matches during his debut season with the U13s, before working his way up through the various youth ranks for club and country, finding the net twice in eight appearances in the 2020/21 I-League - one of India's two premier football divisions.
The U17 India international cites Bayern's Robert Lewandowski as his inspiration. "I want to play in the Champions League for Bayern," he said. "I want to play alongside my favorite footballer, Lewandowski."
Paul is set to become the second player of Indian descent to represent Bayern, after Sarpreet Singh. The New Zealand-born attacking midfielder has made two Bundesliga appearances since joining the club from Wellington Phoenix in 2019. He also helped the reserves win the 2019/20 3. Liga title, before spending a chunk of the 2020/21 campaign on loan at Bundesliga 2 outfit Nuremberg.
The World Squad initiative between Bayern and club partner Volkswagen is designed to give young players from structurally weaker regions a stage to showcase their abilities, and encourage cultural exchange.
"I'm delighted at the opportunity to realise this unique youth development project together with our partner Volkswagen," said Jörg Wacker, FC Bayern München AG Board Member for Internationalisation and Strategy.
"Fifteen players from 15 different nations form an exceptional global team. In addition to the sporting development of the young players, this once again underscores FC Bayern's core values: diversity, tolerance and cohesion."
The No.9 revival
The humble centre-forward is enjoying something of a revival in the modern game, with the Bundesliga leading the way.
German clubs on tour
Dortmund were in Asia, Frankfurt went to Japan, while Leverkusen, Cologne, Stuttgart and HSV headed to the USA...
Who is Noussair Mazraoui?
From making it with Ajax to joining Bayern, bundesliga has the lowdown on the Morocco full-back...