“To Follow Your Dreams, You’ve Got to Bend the Rules”
It was yet another game week, two hours until the deadline for Fantasy Premier League. I was trying to finalize my captain for the week when my brother wanted to know what the fuss was all about. He started bugging me to explain the rules of the game. As I helped him with it, my line of thoughts descended on another track which rolled back a decade.
“Okay! I will accept you as a Red devil if you name at least eight players in Manchester United!” the regular challenge my brother used to throw on me when I was a kid. It was that time when getting an approval from your brother to become a Red devil was the greatest accomplishment as a football fan. It was that time when I started following football and of course I struggled to get eight correct. I was too young to figure out why it meant so much to me that I used to be on the verge of tears at the end of the argument.
I never needed an introduction to this beautiful game and I believe it’s always been there in my genes. The passion and respect for the game multifold as I grew up. It was always going to be tough to establish myself in this sport traditionally which was always perceived to be a gentleman’s game. People used to stare at me on the ground or call me ‘fake’ in social media when I voiced my opinion about the beautiful game instead of the clichéd talks admiring the masculinity of the players. One thing which, I still don’t understand is that why guys think understanding the offside rule is a parameter to judge a female fan. Sometimes I wish my girlfriends would also realize what they are missing when they say I’m crazy to keep an alarm and get up to watch late night kick-offs.
I was barely 10 when I played football for the first time in my life. The day I stopped being a mere spectator of my friend’s play and decided to join them instead, I discovered the fun and spirit finding my way to the goal, overcoming the defenders who refused to make way for me. The little footballers bonded by the passion for the game never left each other and we formed a local club in Kerala, the Delpiero FC. We slowly started taking part in tournaments and tasted how it feels to emerge victorious. I was the only girl in the all-male team and it gave me the mental and physical toughness required to survive this game. My family was not supportive about my involvement in an all guys’ team due to which I often had to make my own arrangements to keep up with my practice sessions and matches (sneaking out of house and making up weirdest excuses when caught). Of course, I had to put in a shift to cement my position as an attacking midfielder (CAM) in the team as we started expanding. Injuries, being my constant companion often put me in taxing situations that forced me on the verge of giving up on my passion. I did not want to take the easy way out driven by persistence and hard work kept me moving till now. I was also lucky enough to get scouted and selected into a Mumbai based I-League club, my first women’s team where I learnt what it is to be a pro footballer.
My football journey so far has been a struggle to find my balance between the adversities and the lack of support and hope to win and learning to accept defeat, but more importantly, it’s a reminder that sometimes, to follow your dreams, you’ve got to bend the rules. Believe in yourself, it’s not necessary to follow the footsteps of those who walk in front of you to reach your destination.
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