We are seeing a surge in the football culture in our country. Not a long time ago you would find it difficult to find people, other than a select few, who genuinely knew every nook and corner of the football world. My love for football is not only restricted to watching and reading about it but also to the extent of playing it day in day out till my legs gave up. Living in two of the metropolitans of our country, New Delhi and Hyderabad, I got quite few opportunities to play football at a better level than just kicking the ball around. I am so influenced by football that I associate myself with people who don’t breathe air but football. I know it can difficult being that way but that what football is to me.
I vaguely remember playing football properly for the first time in 5th class in our physical education class. That time it was not about who played where and passing the ball to the people. It was about getting the ball and just running towards the goal. I found out I was better at stopping the players rather than dribbling around with it. I was so good at it to the extent that I used to be the only player defending while all the others were out attacking. I still remember making one of my classmates cry when I tackled a bit strongly. He went and complained to the class teacher, who made me stand out of the class for the remaining 4 hours of school. That was not the only incident. I was very frequently made to sit out by my physical education teacher, who’s used to always tell me “Puttar! Physical education means playing and doing physical exercise and not physically harming people in the name of sports”. But there was one person from the other section of whom of I was always scared of. He was a bully who used to taunt and tease me for being a south Indian(of which I am completely proud of being). He used to take every opportunity to bully me in and outside the football field. But to my relief he left the school the next year. Few rules of football we followed when I was in 5th:
- Fat ones were made goalkeepers
- Nerds and geeks were the defenders ( other than me, cause I was cool!)
- No one messes with the strong ones
- Finally go for the goal as soon as you get the ball
I was invited to play with the seniors for the first time when I was in 6th class. Even though I knew the importance of each player knowing his position I never, till that time, played in a specific position. The captain of my house football team was the one who gave me the deep lying hard tackling midfielder role because of my ability to break-up the play. He taught me about the importance of my position. The Roy Keane position. My schoolmates used to call me Black Keane,so good I was(I am not bragging! I am being totally honest). I was very disappointed when I didn’t get a place in my school team when it was formed, I was so ashamed that I had to feign a stomach ache for the next two days. One more thing, when I played my first ever football match for my house I was booked for diving, even though I didn’t know what diving. I just thought it would be a good idea to go between two defenders outside the opposition D to make them stick out their legs. I was baffled when the refree showed me the card. My captain had calm me down and tell me why I was booked.
In the year 2008, my life was going to be turned upside down. My Dad got a job offer Hyderabad and we moved to the city of nizams. I absolutely fell in love with this place. Its vibrancy, diversity and of course its respect for football. People here were quite nice and fun, unlike the judgemental, foul mouthed and arrogant dilliwallahs. The school joined here was one of the best in the country. The beating(figuratively dude!) I was given in the football. When I joined I thought football was going to be as easy as that in Delhi. But the shock I got. Almost everyone was better than me. I knew instantly that forget about being a midfielder. There it was about playing professionally at any position. The strikers were amazing. The midfielder knew their stuff. The winger tried and did stuff that I saw only in television. I decided on a whim to tryout goalkeeping one day. Having watched Oliver Kahn dive around, I tried diving and scratched whole left side because our school had sand ground not a grass ground (WHAT A GENUIS AM I ,RIGHT?). I proved to be a good goalkeeper and was instantly made the house goalkeeper and the second choice school goalkeeper(THERE WAS SOMEONE WHO WAS WAY BETTER THAN ME). Goalkeeping was only during the house matched. While playing with other section during lunch or playing with friends in outside school tournaments, I played as a centre back. I was known as ‘The Beast’ and ‘Apna Nemanja’ because of my size and playing style was similar to Vidic. In Hyderabad I experienced my first ankle twist. I fell on the ground and cried for 10 mins. After that injuries became so common that my Mum always used to ask me, “ What new injury have you got today, yerumai (Tamil for Buffalo)?”. So frequently was I injured that my right ankle is now chronically weak, even a small shock can cause a sprain. I also broke my wrist playing football in school. So mad was i about football that I played football while suffering from Chikungunia, ignoring the pain and ache in every joint. But my career had to come to an end at the age of 19. While trying out for college team, I fell awkwardly on the ground while catching a ball floated in from corner. I noticed a light swelling and huge pain. I hid it from my family, acting all macho and manly, for over a month. Finally when they noticed me limping, they scolded me and took me to the doctor. They took an MRI scan and the doctor gave an hour of lecture, telling that I should have consulted earlier, as I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament and buckled my posterior cruciate ligament. Also the cartilage in my knee was completely scrubbed. I had to go through two painful surgeries. I haven’t touched a football for almost two years now, hoping to make a comeback quite soon.
I know this article was neither funny nor informative. It is just my experience of playing football. I am sure all you football maniacs would have had similar incidents. Nicknames based on footballers. Injuries. And many other things.