Ben Johnson in Goa with Canadian footballers who want to play for Team India
Two time Olympic medallist Ben Johnson is in India in a new avatar. Accompanying two young Canadian brothers of Indian origin to Goa to attend trials at I-League football champions Salgaocar Saturday, the athlete says he was always passionate about soccer.
The two youngsters, Guveer, 18, and Karamveer Tumbar, 17, have been training with Canada-based Johnson for the past four years to develop their stamina at Ontario's Turner Fenton Secondary School.
The Tumbar siblings are strikers and Johnson, the controversial athlete who was stripped of his 100 metre gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics for failing a dope test, says they can surprise Indian defenders with their bursting pace.
"The football coach at Turners wanted me to develop the boys' stamina and I have been working with them since 2007. Both Gurveer and Karamveer are good sprinters and with their lightning speed they can put any defence in trouble," said the sprinter who won two bronze medals (100m, 4x100) from the Los Angeles Olympics.
Asked why his wards chose India, Johnson, said: "Their parents hail from Punjab and the boys want to represent India. It would be great if they can impress the coach at the trials. Eventually, their dream is to represent India."
Johnson, a Jamaican by birth, emigrated to Canada in 1976 at the age of 15 to train under famous Canadian athletics coach Charlie Francis at York University.
Recalling his sprinting days, Johnson said: "I started as a footballer and was a striker at Toronto Links in 1990s when the teams mostly had Italians. Though I strengthened my basics in athletics I never lost my passion for soccer. My success as a sprinter is because of the fact that I was a very good athlete. I feel whatever sport one plays it is important to be a strong athlete."
Johnson's passion for soccer also saw him working as a trainer for Argentine legend Diego Maradona in 1997.
The Tumbars also concurred with their coach as they feel their sprinting skills have helped them to become better footballers.
On training with Johnson, Guveer said: "Our football coach at Turner Fenton wanted us to develop stamina and Ben readily agreed. He has been of great help."
"India is coming up in football and we want to play football here. We have a relative in Delhi who arranged for the trial at Salgaocar since it is the champion club. We hope to make our mark and play for India in the 2018 World Cup," said Karamveer.
When pointed out that only Indian passport holders can represent India, Guveer said: "We have Indian parents and hope something works out for us in future."
Salgaocar's secretary general Raj Gomes said it is up to the club's Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa to take a call on the two youngsters.
"It is simple, the boys have to impress Bencherifa. It all depends on the coach," he said. - IANS