Balewadi, Florida State Seminoles, FSU, I-league, Indian Football, Khalid Jamil, Mumbai FC, Real Time Sportscast
When you feel like a chronic ill-tempered feeling would never leave you,
Living with a look so demure,
When you know your greatest challenge lies ahead,
It’s then that his messenger’s word drops a seed of beatitude that in gratitude makes your eyes water.
During his playing days, he said ‘No’ to the ‘Big Two’ clubs of Kolkata having been offered contracts as either club was being sponsored by a liquor company (Source: TOI); he once sold a bottle of champagne which was awarded to him after he was crowned ‘Man Of The Match’ to buy sweets for slum kids; he is currently doing wonders with a Mumbai Football Club squad lacking the necessary strength to challenge for honours in Indian football, the so-called ‘God’s Own Midfielder’ and the Andre Villas Boas of Indian Football, Khalid Jamil.
Six months back, seeing him coach and manage his Mumbai FC Squad so superbly well, setting them up to defend well and nick games time and time again for over a period of six months, for me, even meeting Khalid sir one on one was like a dream for me. After having read about him on how strongly he follows his ethics, he had been an absolute inspiration for me.
Along with working for Real Time Sportscast as a Sports Analyst (RTS) and Pune Football Club in Sports Marketing, I joined Goal.com as a Football Journalist in May 2011, and the first article that was assigned to me was on Khalid sir and his team, ‘The 'Underdog' Story Of Mumbai FC’.
I would be lying if I say that I didn’t enjoy writing the article. The article turned out great and its after effects were so positive that the man himself, Khalid sir met me and complemented me on the article that I had written. He said, “Kratik Malhotra? Mai soch bhi nahi sakta tha ki koi aisa bhi likh sakta hai.” After the comment, he also gave me his cell number and asked me to message him with my name. That very moment, as the adrenalin gushed through my veins, I settled myself down explaining to myself what had just happened and what the 34-year old had said to me.
From then on in - either in Kolhapur or in Pune - I interviewed him a several times and his simplicity, ability to be straight forward and the sheer child-like innocence in his eyes took me aback. Every time that I would meet him, I would just want to be like him; whether knowingly or unknowingly, I had just turned into a massive fan of Khalid Jamil.
While working for Goal.com, Pune FC and RTS, covering football, if there was one more thing that I was doing, was applying to the United States to pursue my intended course, Masters’ in Sports Management. As months passed, god shower his blessings and I received admits from New York University (NYU), Florida State University (FSU), St. Johns’ University and Southern New Hampshire University, of which I opted to join FSU.
With me all set to leave for USA on December 26, 2011, my will to meet Khalid sir for one last time grew and a couple of days back, on December 22 when I was covering the match between Mumbai FC and HAL Bangalore at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune for RTS, I finally caught up with him.
After waiting for an extra half hour, watching Khalid sir finish his regular post match training with the players who had not featured in the game and the interviews with the press following a comfortable 4-0 victory, I went to him and spoke.
I first congratulated him on the result and later, told him that I would be moving to US after four days to do a two year Masters’ course in Sports Management. Listening to which he replied, “Toh fir idhar aa ke kaam karna”, which translates to ‘come back to India to work’. It was a statement that evoked a feeling in me of exactly how much I could help my country become bigger and better in the field of sports.
Moreover, he patted me on the back and said, “Mehnat karna, tu accha karega.” Translating to, ‘work hard, you will do well’.
It was like he had blessed me. I smiled at him, feeling so very confident. For that instant, I felt like I am the ‘special one’ sent by god to take the Indian sport to another level. I shook hands with him, and started walking out of the stadium. Just as I had reached the parking lot, the tears of gratitude started to flow down my eyes and boy! Wasn’t I touched? I sure was!
Half an year back, Khalid sir was once a man whom I was overwhelmed to meet and here he was, wishing me good luck for the future.
It was just magic, conjured by god for me to realize that my country is and would forever be my valentine. There are some things that money can’t buy and those five minutes with Khalid Jamil were just one of them.