Bengaluru FC official website “My mother gave me two years to succeed in football”

Between playing the sport he loved, going to school and working night shifts in a pharmacy, Faisal Ali made his way with the one he wanted the most. This is his story…

The knock on the door is soft, as is his demeanor off the pitch. It takes him a bit of time to make his request known, and when he does, you know Faisal Ali has spent time thinking about whether to make it or not.

“Woh Chhetri bhai ke saath jo photo liya tha, woh mujhe bhej do na please?”
(That picture you clicked of me and Chhetri bhai, can you please send it to me).

At the team hotel in Kolkata where the Blues are staying for their Durand Cup campaign, a deal is struck. Ali chooses the photo he wants and transfers it to his phone. In return, he then sits down for a quick chat.

“I have always loved playing football and I think it comes from my older brother, who played at amateur level. When I was 13 I decided I wanted to be a footballer. I worked hard and I spent three years playing on different courts hoping to get noticed and I participated in several trials, but I was never selected.Then one day my parents made it clear to me that they had some enough,” says Ali.

Time is running out during this interview, with lunch served at noon in the Blues dining room and the prospect of paying a fine looming if he is late. By his own admission, deadlines don’t bother him. Back home in Jannagar Road, Ali’s parents told him that if football wasn’t working, maybe it wasn’t for him.

“In our community, people usually start making money at an early age to make ends meet. So when my parents told me I had to look for work, I convinced them to let me try to make it in football. They agreed, but only on the premise that I would take a part-time job somewhere. My mum gave me two years before I had to quit football and focus on my job,” he recalled.

After playing and playing the sport he loves at nearby Park Circus in the mornings, Ali would take a quick ride to be on time for school. Then, later that evening, a quick snack was all he could afford before heading to the nearby medical store where he worked night shifts.

“The only job I could find that fit my schedule was at a 24-hour medical store. I was taking prescriptions, handing them meds, doing billing; all the usual stuff. I I was earning 1800 rupees a month. It wasn’t much, but it was something. More importantly, it gave my parents an answer when someone asked them what I did for a living. All this time, all I wanted was to be able to give them the opportunity to say that I was a professional footballer.

Between training, school and night shifts at the pharmacy, Ali would occasionally go to a trial. In 2018, following a late exit from the trials organized by the Kolkata Police, scouts from the Kolkata Football Academy withdrew his name.

“It was my first break. I went home and told my parents that I wanted to join KFA and move 20 kilometers from their home. They weren’t sure because my siblings had stayed in home and no one had ever left Jannagar. My mother was the most worried. She even said that I could quit my job and earn nothing, but I had to stay at home. Fortunately, my father and my brothers convinced her to let me go, my suitcases were already packed.

From Kolkata Football Academy to Southern Samity and then Bhawanipore FC, life moved quickly for Ali. After playing for Bhawanipore in the 2020 I-League qualifiers, Mohammedan SC came calling. Ali admits he felt a career in football was taking shape for him.

“I played two seasons for Mohammedan Sporting, and I just wanted to give my best in every game I played. I didn’t know who was watching me and I had no aspiration to join a big club or join the ISL for now. I was playing football at a professional level and I loved it; it was my dream from the start.

A run to the 2021 Durand Cup final and a 2021-22 I-League runner-up later, Faisal got the call from Bengaluru FC. Assistant coach Naushad Moosa had watched him in action and the Blues wasted no time in signing the 22-year-old to their squad.

“I can’t explain how I felt when I heard that Bengaluru FC wanted to sign me. I had offers from a few other clubs but that was the one I wanted the most because they wanted me gave me the opportunity to learn. Every time I see Chhetri bhai I think how lucky I am to be able to learn from his experience. He has been playing at the highest level since I didn’t. only two years!

Faisal is under no illusions that he will have to buy time on the pitch. The competition for places in the Blues squad is as high as it gets but it’s a challenge the youngster says he wants to face head-on.

“I would be a fool if I came here thinking that I would be part of the first team straight away. There are players who are better than me, and I have to work hard and become better than them. It’s simple. Getting an opportunity to play in the team is my first priority and when I get that I want to do the best I can.

Ali leaves for lunch and he arrived on time. Later that day, the photo we sent her made its way to her Instagram. The legend is one he wrote himself; ‘we are not beginners forever, but we never stop learning.’

Edwin S. Wolfe