This is the second chapter in “90+1”, the story of an ordinary guy who wanted to be the Greatest Football Manager ever. To read the first chapter(if you haven’t already, click here, Who I am: First Chapter, 90+1).
Big buildings, flashy lights and busy faces are the characteristics of a ‘mega city’, so when I moved to Mumbai, I knew what to expect. Just like the big city, I had big plans for myself: I was going to study hard, take interest in extra-curricular activities and also keep up with Football. I’ll give you 10 bucks if you can guess which part of that I held up. Your guess is as good as mine- Football.
I finally got to my dorm and looked up my room number, the receipt read “Room No 189, D-4”. As I walked through the room, I saw an empty unmade bed with cigarette butts all over the blanket and a couple of beer bottles. Suddenly I heard footsteps and someone entered the room I was about to call home for 4 long years. He was tall and skinny with the stench of a man who had been homeless for 6 days. Clearly he had no concepts of shaving or washing his face. “New kid?” he smirked as he put forth that question.
“Yes, I’m Jai and you are?” I asked in all sincerity. He looked a little upset with the question that I had posed but answered because they apparently do all sorts of favour to “new kids”.
“I’m Bhavesh, your roommate and a senior. Have you no manners?” he asked as if he was genuinely hurt.
“Oh, I’m sorry, man. I didn’t know, good to meet you. Finally made a new friend!” I said in an excited tone and he didn’t look excited at all that killed all the excitement I had gathered around. Phew, so much for being excited, eh?
“I’m not your friend” he lit a cigarette, slammed the door shut and left.
‘Way to go, Jai. Making new friends seems like a distant dream now, you’ve successfully pissed off a senior’ I thought to myself.
The classes were to start a day after I arrived so I still had time to look around the campus and as I took a stroll in the college park, I noticed a group that were discussing something to do with ‘Football transfers’ and being the person I am, I went up to them and introduced myself.
“Hey. Jai here, 1st year” I said extending a hand in hopes of a handshake, perhaps. For the first 5 minutes I got no response.
“I think Liverpool will try and grab Simao Sabrosa from Benfica” I said again and this time they all looked up and one of them adjusting his glasses said “You think it’ll work for them?”
“I don’t think they need a winger, instead, we need a centre back. Particularly this Danish player-Agger” I replied in utter confidence because I knew it was the right answer. They seemed impressed and invited me over to the little bench where the three boys were sitting discussing the ‘oh-so-controversial’ transfer window. Everything back then, especially at an engineering college was controversial, even if it had no business of being so.
“I’m Pulkit. 2nd year and this is Somendra and Krishna” Pulkit said pointing towards the two.
“Hello” I said smiling at them. I spent the next hour talking to them about transfers, matches and how I can’t think of anything but football. They sympathized, empathized and then explained the fundamentals of surviving this college.
“Why don’t you come play with us tomorrow morning?” Pulkit asked politely.
“Sure! When and where?” I replied keenly.
“Tomorrow. 6:30 am. Bhavans Ground, Andheri” Krishna answered.
I was thrilled to know that there are people who watch and follow football as closely as I do and I kind of made new friends, too. All of this on the very first day! I was impressed by my own skills. I went straight to my room and found Bhavesh sleeping on his side of the room. I walked in quietly and unpacked as inaudibly as I could. By the time I was finished, it was dinner time and a bell had notified of us the same. Bhavesh took absolutely no effort to help me out with directions so I just followed everyone’s lead to the mess. The food wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be and sitting Pulkit, Somendra and Krishna- talking about tactics kind of took my mind off of the food, too.
I was evidently tired after dinner and a long tiring day. Classes were to start tomorrow and I wanted to be fresh for my first day at college and more so for the football session I was going to. I was certain that it was going to be a good day, I was choosing happiness over doubt.
My alarm went off exactly at 5:30 am, I woke up, put on my Chelsea 2005 kit’s home jersey and a pair of black shorts along with my Adidas Pulse 2 Predator boots. I decided to take an auto to the ground and to my surprise there were at least 5-6 autos lined up. Big cities, eh. I reached Bhavans Ground at around 6:25-ish and saw Pulkit and Somendra playing one on one whereas Krishna was just wearing his boots and getting ready. There were some other kids, too who were younger than us but man, they could run!
“Wow, you guys are really good!” I exclaimed as they sipped onto their bottles.
“Yeah, we’ve been playing for a very long time” replied Somendra.
“But Krishna…” I hesitated before completing my sentence “Maybe you should play as an Attacking Midfielder?”
“Haha! Why would you say that? I have played as a Forward my entire life!” He replied and I could sense the irritability in his tone.
“Yeah, I know but I have seen you play. You lead the attack very well and your thorough balls are fabulous and your work rate improves when you’re playing centrally. I mean, you’re something Rui Costa, perhaps?” I replied hoping to get through to him.
“Oh yeah? You think so? Well, we’re losing 1-0 anyway, I’ll play as an AM, and let’s see what results we get!” he said almost hoping to prove me wrong. For the second half of the game, Krishna played an AM and got wonderful results. Our tempo was much better and the crosses were handled in a better fashion. I even scored a goal, and guess who assisted? Yes! Krishna did.
The game ended in a one all draw and Krishna finally saw why I wanted him to play as an AM. He said that he would want to play as an AM more often and see how it hones his skills. Pulkit and Somendra were rather impressed by the quick decision I made that saw a drastic change in the game. I guess long hours of watching football and playing Football Manager Handheld had its perks. Truth be told though, I was naturally good at identifying game potentials and that gave me the utmost confidence in the fact that I could make something out of this ‘passion’ of mine.
It was around 7:45 when I reached back home and went into my room to see Bhavesh still sleeping. My classes were to start at 8:30 and I wanted to be prepared for this, too. So, I put on my favourite shirt and wore my glasses to add that extra touch. The orientation for the 1st year students ended at 10 am and our study lectures started at 11. My first class was about Mechanical designs and frankly, I didn’t give a shit. Instead of drawing and learning what the professor drew on the board, I made football crests and tactical analysis. In the middle of the third class that day, on my very first day- I realised something I never wanted to. I realised that I made a mistake. A mistake that could cost me my happiness and who wants to live life without happiness, right? Maybe I was Roberto Baggio in this situation. I had one shot at a penalty, to make a choice and to stand up to it and just like Baggio, I missed it.
But like they say, you make mistakes to learn from them. Maybe Roberto learned and went on to become one of the best players in Italian football. If he can, I can too.
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Total analyst. Food junkie. Future CEO of Procrasti-nation. Writer. Manchester United enthusiast. Avid reader and an occasional owl. ‘One love’ believer. If you don’t know what that is, please, FIND OUT. TV and movie nerd. Overly attached to my dog, and yes, I call her my ‘four legged sister’. PEACE.