CARY — Anik Gupta lives and breathes football.

Nearly every inch of his bedroom is filled with NFL team jerseys and helmets and paintings depicting aspects of the game. He even has a custom painted jersey on his wall with the name of his favorite team: the New England Patriots.

The 10-year-old’s passion for soccer led him to start his own YouTube channel, where he built a following by predicting weekly NFL game results and providing analysis. After more than two years in front of the camera, the channel — Lil’ Football Fan — has amassed more than 600 subscribers and continues to grow.

Gupta started the channel one day after school when he was 8 years old. She took her mother’s iPhone, recorded a short video about why she loves soccer and uploaded it online.

“I love football because anything can happen,” said Anik. “You can see a broken tackle, a dive in the endzone, or even a one-handed catch.”

A natural talent

The idea seemed like just another after-school activity for the ever-energetic Anik. But when he showed the video to his parents, they were blown away by his natural charisma on camera and his intimate knowledge of the sport.

Anik knew he was the real deal when he received praise from his father, an avid sports watcher.

“Anik and I always talk about football at home and ask each other about the players in each team,” said his father, Sachin. “But I was really surprised by how natural it is to be a sportscaster.”

That natural talent now fuels Anik Gupta’s career aspiration. He wants to be on ESPN’s Sportscenter and share analysis and commentary on all things soccer. His favorite thing is to make predictions about match results. In fact, it’s his guesswork that earned him the acclaim when, in 2019, he accurately picked the winner of every game in the NFL playoffs, including the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory.

“When I predict a match correctly, I get so happy,” Anik said. “I want to be the best predictor in the league.”

Those predictions landed him a story on Raleigh Spectrum News 1, then WRAL-TV, and even an invite from the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Unfortunately, Ellen’s appearance never happened due to COVID-19, but Anik Gupta’s legacy has continued to grow.

On his channel, he has now conducted interviews with the likes of Governor Roy Cooper, Buffalo Bills running back Nyheim Hines, and Carolina Panthers play-by-play announcer Anish Shroff. But you’d be very wrong if you thought that the status of these big names shook Anik’s confidence.

“I’m a little terrified at first, but then I calm down,” he said.

Anik eases his nerves with breathing exercises or rekindles his passion for the game by playing “Madden”, an NFL video game.

Ahead of a big interview, Anik said he researches his topic and finds niche details about them — favorite teams and players and previous places of work — to make sure he’s asking the right questions.

A family affair

Help Anik have the support of her family to help her channel keep getting better. Her mother, Dr. Radhika Gupta, supplies the equipment, edits the videos and books all her interviews with the stars.

“When it’s all done and the kids go to sleep at night, I sit down and do all the contacts, changes, etc.” Dr. Gupta said. “It’s quite challenging, but I believe in his passion and I want to support him.”

His mom also runs his own channel growth strategy and is attempting to get Lil’ Football Fan to 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year. She has also started posting snippets of her videos on her Facebook and Instagram profiles to increase her engagement. Dr. Gupta also helped set up a website for all of his content: lilfootballfan.com

“We always encourage him to think about and take time for these videos,” said Dr. Gupta. “If that’s really what he wants to do then we want him to do the best he can, it’s not just about shooting a video and uploading it.”

His father Sachin provides inspiration for the videos. Their conversations revolve around games to watch for the week and the league’s latest best players. Anik’s older sister Anushka is also a frequent guest on the show. She is as well versed in the game as Anik and is ready to add her own insights into the game in Anik’s videos.

In the Gupta household, football is truly a family affair. The family even keeps their own spreadsheet for predicting weekly match results; whoever predicts the most matches correctly can choose the dinners for the week.

For the love of the game

When he’s not on camera talking football, Anik maintains his passion for the game in other ways. He is also the commissioner, creator and commentator of the Helmet League, a league in which WWE wrestler action figures don the helmets of different teams and play out a full football match on Anik’s living room floor.

The throw pillows become the goalposts, the red floral carpet becomes the 100-yard field, and the two wrestlers become quarterbacks, linebackers, and everyone else on the 53-man roster. Anik comments on every play, gives player speeches at halftime, and even maintains stats for his league. Currently, the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers top the standings in the Helmet League.

In his spare time, Gupta also plays Fantasy Football, where he is second in his division, and runs a virtual Madden franchise, where his team is 11-0. Somewhere in between all of football, he finds time to play football for North Carolina FC and attend school as a fourth grader at Thales Academy in Apex.

At school, Anik said that most of his friends aren’t as football fanatics as he is, so he sees the game as something of a private passion to get excited about, and his YouTube channel – www.youtube.com/@LilFootballFan — it’s a way to share that passion beyond her social circles.

Anik said he will continue to provide weekly forecasts and analysis on his Lil’ Football Fan channel as the season winds down. Regarding those predictions, she said that she thinks the Super Bowl will feature a battle of the birds between the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Journalist Ben Rappaport can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @b_rappaport.

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