It has taught me about friendship, trust, diversity and life.
Sunday for a sports lover like me is about football. You’ll find me in the nearest playground with my oversized friends kicking the hell out of a ball. It’s cathartic as well, releasing all the unhappiness and disappointment related to my personal and professional life. As a journalist I need my weekly dose of Sunday football to release my pent up frustrations.
Watching Premier League football action a night before, the game becomes all about replicating your favourite player on TV. We copy his style, occasionally his haircut, to help embody his holy footballing spirit.
My Sundays dedicated to football
On Sunday, the uneven municipal corporation ground at Colaba, Mumbai converts itself into an advanced multi-purpose sports stadium with a steady stream of sportsmen. It’s divided into various zones, each one with a designated space reserved for their own ball game. My gang rules the football zone, this particular stretch is home to around 20 people every Sunday. The players in my gang belong to different walks of life. From students to corporate employees, most of us are past our prime but the enthusiasm and commitment levels are second to none.
Playing football on a basketball court
For newbies we might come across as intimidating. The skills we exhibit can’t be learnt in any textbook. Most times we end up surprising ourselves. Though Sunday football has its own set of rules. No extra running, no accurate passing, lots of shouting and name calling and most importantly going overboard with celebrations. With no official referees, the senior most player becomes the ad-hoc referee.
My gang rules
Initially it took time for a semi-professional player like me to settle in. My teammates cut across different age groups with varying levels of skill and it was a challenge to understand and change my game accordingly. It would be frustrating to miss out on a goal scoring opportunity because one of my teammates was unable to get the basics right. But that feeling passed quickly when I realized that Sunday football is not just about scoring goals and winning matches, it’s about having fun. You can be your favourite player and no one’s judging you. You don’t keep score with your opponents, there’s a healthy mix of youngsters and middle-aged players that spices up the competition. There’s also no team setup, as soon as a player reaches the field he is randomly divided into one of the two teams. Playing this way has actually helped me grow as a team player with senior pros always willing to impart valuable tips. This advice has helped me change my perspective towards the game and made me mature.
All set to line up a shot on goal
The real team bonding starts after the game is over when we all head out for refreshments. This is where the match analysis begins. This is the time when I end up hiding myself if I’m part of the losing team. The victorious side makes sure its presence is felt by bragging about the game. It doesn’t end there. We’re subjected to Whatsapp messages and Facebook taunts through the week. If you’re lucky, you might get a call to remind you of your loss, but it’s all in good cheer.
Sunday football has given me the best of friends. Especially when most of us were complete strangers when we started out. I couldn’t have dreamed of middle-aged uncles as my friends. But now I have 'uncle friends’ and the younger players have me as their ‘uncle friend’. These friends advise me about my professional life and are ready to help whenever I need them. And I hope to pass the favour on to the younger ones. It has given me a safety net for life. An alternate family who wines, dines and plays together.
Come Sunday and you’ll find us roaming the streets of Colaba, hunting for food after a tiring game. Watch out for us, and join in!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com
By Sheriar Irani
Photographs by Sheriar Irani