From zero to hero: Russian football talent takes his chance

It's the third year some of the world's most gifted amateur footballers have been given the chance to go professional. This time around, one of the Top 16 top chosen was Russia’s Kirill Laptev.

­Everyone's given a chance. Some take it, others waste it and that's what separates winners from losers.

Kirill Laptev won to become the youngest Russian to launch his football career through the Nike Chance program, which seeks out talented youngsters from all over the globe without a professional contract.

After a serious injury the 19-year-old had almost lost hope of returning to the game.

“I tried to come back and join Spartak, Lokomotiv, Saturn's sport schools, but they weren't interested,” Kirill told RT. “I was told, I was too small. They said: ‘Gain some weight and grow some muscles, then try again.’ They liked my skills, but fitness has always been a priority for them.”

Nike Chance gave Laptev another shot, but he first had to get through the local selection.

Just one hundred hopefuls out of 4.000 from across Russia met up in Moscow for tests and games, watched and assessed by pro coaches.

Only four of them would be chosen to represent their country at the world finals in Barcelona.

“I went there for nothing less but the victory,
” Laptev said. “I spent so many years playing football my parents helped me as much as they could. But a year ago my Dad lost faith in me as a player. That was my motivation. I had to win.”

“With the global final being held in Barcelona was definitely in my favor. I think, I play a Spanish style – fast passing, great vision, good ball control. That's my game, and I think the coaches saw it in me,” he added.

Training with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Javier Mascherano, and putting his skills on show among the top one hundred Kirill proved he had what it takes to make it to the last 16 in style.

He's now set to embark on a world tour early next year, with the chance to be signed by one of Europe's top clubs.

“Myself and my team mates trained with Javier Mascherano for a while,”
he recalled. “Frankly speaking, I realized then, even superstars were just human – just like any of us. And most of us could reach this level.”

The gifted midfielder was once rejected by some coaches in Russia, but he proved he deserved a second chance. Now it's time to take it to the next level.

“I think, Russia will do very well at the 2018 World Cup. Especially, if they pay more attention to young and talented players,” Laptev laughed.

Kirill has already learned one of the greatest lessons in life try not to waste the chances you are given and there will be very little you can't achieve.