Kolkata: While millions of fans of Lionel Messi have to be content with watching Argentine soccer superstar on television as he steps into the Salt Lake Stadium here on September 2, it would be a dream come true for 14-year-old Rajen Bhuia who is set to have a close brush with his hero.

Bhuia and three other children, all from the marginalised sections of the society, would walk Messi and other members of the Argentinian and Venezuelan teams into the playing arena for the official FIFA friendly game.

Bhuia, who plays for East Calcutta District Force, Kishalaya, is ecstatic.

'I go to Salt Lake everyday to practice for three hours early in the morning. To watch Messi from so close will be the most unforgettable moment of my life,' he said.

Bhuia, who resides in the slums in east Kolkata's Tangra area, wants to be a footballer like the 24-year-old talismanic Barcelona FC striker.

'I want to make it big in the game like him,' the teenager said.

The four children have been chosen by the leading child rights organisation Save the Children (STC), which is the cause partner for the match.

Each of these children is either a child labourer or has been rescued from hazardous child labour situations, says STC Chief Executive officer Thomas Chandy.

'We celebrate the beautiful game as an expression of physical talent but that talent can only come to the fore if we ensure that our children are nurtured with good nutrition and health within the first two years of their birth,' Chandy said.

Forty-three percent of India's children are underweight, and seven million under five years severely malnourished, making it difficult for the country to shine in sports disciplines like soccer.

'For millions of children in India, surviving beyond the age of five is a big question mark. Nearly two million children under the age of five die every year in India. This should not be so,' Chandy said.

Messi himself has had to battle with a growth hormone deficiency that was diagnosed when he was 11 years old. The player switched to Barcelona as the Spanish club promised to foot his medical bill which amounted to $900 a month.

In 2007, Messi set up the charity Leo Messi Foundation that supports the education and health needs of deprived children.

The foundation, for which Messi regularly takes part in fundraisers, also arranges for treatment in Spain for Argentine children suffering from physical ailments.

The NGO hopes to use the platform provided by the big match to draw public attention to the condition of the children and inspire the youngsters that they can fulfil their dreams by overcoming physical problems like the Argentine.

'Messi was fortunate to overcome a growth hormone deficiency to become the legend that he is today but for millions of children in India, surviving beyond the age of five is a big question mark. Nearly 2 million children under the age of 5 die every year in India. This should not be so,' Chandy said.

(Agencies)