Published: 08th October 2019
This Mars Mission is about getting Telangana's rural kids to fall in love with football. Here's how
To encourage students from rural background so that they can have an equal shot at the goal post, Hyderabad-based Mars Football Foundation is truly doing their best to level up the playing field
In a country where cricket is a religion, where would the other innumerable sports stand? Yes, the NBA India Games 2019 was launched amidst much fanfare earlier this month and no one (at least no one in Hyderabad) is over homegirl PV Sindhu's bagging gold at the World Championships. So, maybe other sports are finally having their moment in the sun? Maybe, maybe not. Any which way, for Moizuddin Mohammed, every day is about football and about taking the sport to a place where it has the opportunity to thrive — the grassroots. With this intention, Moizuddin started Mars Football Foundation in the summer of 2015. He wants to take football, both literally and figuratively, to all the districts of Telangana. But why? Let's find out.
Striking a pose: Moizuddin Mohammed is committed to taking football to the grassroots| (Pic: S Senbagapandiyan)
Desire to coach
Coming from a humble background, if there is one regret that Moizuddin had while growing up was not having access to a football coach. Still, the then 11-year-old Moizuddin managed to make the most of his circumstances by collecting the balls behind the goal post during the training session of a local football club in Srirampur Colony, Mancherial District. He learnt the trick of the trades from the same club, simply by observation. College left him bleak in terms of opportunities, but during his engineering days, he used to travel to Mandamarri and Ramakrishnapur for training. He even had the opportunity to represent his university Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad in a tournament. Further studies in the UK beckoned and then life happened. "The fact that I've never had the opportunity to train under a proper coach is a pain I continue to carry till date. I just hope that passionate kids never go through what I have gone through," says Moizuddin, who at the age of 35, got a license from All India Football Federation and set the ball rolling for many. "In the 50s and 60s, many players from Hyderabad made a mark on the national level, so we do have a football culture here. We just need to revive it," says the footballer, reiterating a point Hyderabad FC Head Coach Phil Brown also made recently, during the launch of the club's jersey for the coming season.
He used to work as a contractor first, wherein, he used to work for eight months and dedicate the rest of the time to training. Currently, he works as a Senior Consultant in the IT industry
Moizuddin started with Asifabad district where a friend, who was a PT teacher at a government school, helped him out. "I used to sleep in my car," recalls the sportsman about his initial struggles. He started the game from Singareni area and tried approaching the Singereni management for grassroots development in the Coal Belt area, but in vain. With the intention to develop the grassroots, he took the help of Nigerian coaches Malik and Mubarak in Kothagudem and Bhupalpally areas of Singereni in May 2016. The strategy was to either train the kids directly or to train PT teachers so that they can train the students. Most of these kids did not even have shoes, leave alone football. In association with Ball To All, Moizuddin started distributing free footballs to the underprivileged. "You do not need a lot of money to play the sport, at least initially," he explains and adds, "Players in other countries are exposed to football at the age of 6 and represent the nation after a solid 10-11 year experience. Whereas here, kids start playing only at the age of 10 or 11. The key is to tap them young." Moizuddin's quest to spread the football love has taken him to districts like Nirmal, Adilabad, Mancherial, Kothagudem, Bhupalpally, Mahabubabad, Karimnagar and Gadwal. In fact, Moizuddin found an able goalkeeper in a young girl, Rakshita, in Gadwal. "Her father had left the family and her mother is a tailor. I found a coach, Vijay BBhogadhi from Hyderabad Football Academy, who trained her, both theory and practical classes and she represented the district in the senior category recently," says the coach with a smile. One tale that Moizuddin narrates is of a 12-year-old named Rahul who used to attend practice by travelling on a broken bicycle as he lived 12 km away.
Taking a shot: During one of the sessions conducted by the foundation | (Pic: S Senbagapandiyan)
There are many such tales he regales us with, like how a few children work at nights, play in the morning after which they go to school and then sleep only in the evening. "But what is the point? These kids put in the effort, what's next for them? Someone needs to identify them on a larger scale," asserts Moizuddin who sometimes brings down experienced coach with the help of British Council or refers star performers to Hyderabad Football Academy, who has a grassroots development programme in place. "We don't approach students by telling them that they will be a big player, we want to promote the sport for fitness and well being first. That is how we keep them motivated," says the 38-year-old.
Within three to five years Moizuddin wants to produce international standard players in the category of U10, U13 and U15
Pillars of support
Not like Moizuddin has not tried to reach out to the higher-ups, like the Sports Authority of Telangana State, but he has only been disappointed. "They ask me if I am doing grassroots development programme, I must have played for the nation. I feel so disheartened. Playing and coaching are two different things," he says, sounds dismayed. He shares how even local district authorities have questioned his intentions. But Moizuddin is a firm believer in God and that keeps him going. "If a person is doing good to the society, the legacy will last even, after my death," he says with a steely determination. He goes on to say how he isn't looking for money from them, "I just want them to work with me to make this a football-playing nation."
Beyond practical: Moizuddin taking theory classes for students | (Pic: S Senbagapandiyan)
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