KUWAIT/KANNUR: A Kuwait-based Indian boy from Kannur, Kerala, has been handpicked by Brazilian superstar footballer Neymar Jr to play alongside him in a global five-a-side event to be held in Qatar. Shahzad Mohammed Rafi, 17, a Kuwait resident, has been announced as one of the seven freestyle footballers selected from an online global talent hunt dubbed '2021 Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five' that had hundreds of entries from the world over.

PSG superstar Neymar was among the seven panelists that scrutinized 60-second clips of footballing skills submitted by Shahzad and other contestants on Instagram. Shahzad is listed as an entry from Kuwait as his family is settled there. "Everyone at home is excited about it," Shahzad told the media in Kannur, where he has been stuck for months since arriving for his sister's wedding.

Shahzad, who is a fan of Manchester United legend Cristiano Ronaldo, is eager to meet and play alongside Neymar, who he says is a huge inspiration. He says futsal and seven-a-side games have always been an attraction, but it was a chance meeting with popular French freestyle footballer Sean Garnier a few years ago that became the turning point.