Extra Time with Leeza Mangaldas: Mobashir is a star in the making
Follow pitch-side reporter Leeza Mangaldas as she takes you behind the scenes this Hero ISL season. New posts every week exclusively on indiansuperleague.com. Connect with Leeza on Instagram or Twitter at @leezamangaldas.
At Jamshedpur FC, local youngster Mobashir Rahman is turning heads
At Jamshedpur FC’s training ground, dozens of excited little children flock outside the barricades when the team is practising to catch a glimpse of their favourite players in action. Amidst their usual chants of 'Tiri, Memo and Jerry', this season there’s a new name on their lips - 'Mobashir bhaiyya!'
Even his most illustrious teammate, Aussie legend Tim Cahill, praises him wholeheartedly. "This one’s surely a player to watch out for," he tells me, as the morning’s practice comes to an end.
Young Mobashir Rahman may be the new kid on the block at Jamshedpur FC, but for him, Jamshedpur has always been home and playing professional football has long been his dream.
He grew up as the son of a footballer in Dhatkidih, right next to the Tata Football Academy (TFA), of which he is an alumnus. His father Mohammad Shafique was a defender who played for Bihar.
"I was so inspired by my dad. I wanted to be a footballer literally ever since I was a baby," Mobashir said, as I asked him about his childhood. "I always played football in school, but initially my dad didn’t want me to play seriously. He knew too well how much of a struggle it is. He wanted me to grow up to have a more secure and lucrative job than he had."
So, when Mobashir would ask to accompany his dad to practice or to watch his matches, he would be firmly told to stay home and study. Still, by the time he was 10-years-old, it was clear that he had an exceptional affinity for the game.
He was playing for one of TFA’s U-12 youth teams at a tournament in Delhi in 2008 when an official from the Chandigarh Football Academy invited him to enroll in their program. But back then, his parents were still reluctant to let him go, so he continued to play locally instead.
Two years later, however, when playing for Jharkhand in a U-14 football festival held by the AIFF, Mobashir says he had an epiphany. "I realized in my heart then, that this was my calling — I told myself, come what may, I was going to do whatever it takes to be a pro footballer."
After much persuasion, his parents relented, and he set off for Chandigarh. "They could see how much football meant to me, and I think, while part of my dad wanted me to have a more traditional career, the footballer in him was actually delighted and proud," he says, smiling.
Mobashir trained in Chandigarh for the next four years. Also at the academy, during that time, were Nishu Kumar, Hitesh Sharma, Sumeet Passi and Sehnaj Singh. "It was a very special time for us all," he recalls. "We basically spent our whole childhood there.”
Upon completing the programme at age 16, he returned home to Jamshedpur for a trial at TFA. "There were 2000 boys from all over India trying out. Only 20 would be selected. I was determined to be one of them," he said.
Throughout our conversation, I am struck by Mobashir’s conviction and positivity. His remarkable self-belief has certainly taken him places.
"I was in my final year at TFA last season when Jamshedpur FC was formed. So, I played for the reserves, we played I-League second division for Jamshedpur. But I would watch every Hero ISL home game live from the stands and I hoped and dreamed that the next season, I would play for the first team too. Now here I am."
Indeed, this year, his wish was fulfilled. When Cesar Ferrando was appointed head coach ahead of Season 5, Mobashir was one of only three boys he picked from the reserves team to go to Madrid for pre-season training. He is extremely grateful for the faith his coach has consistently shown in his abilities.
"I was thrilled that I got selected for the first team and I was absolutely delighted to play in our very first game this season and then I got to play again in the second match. But right after that match in Bengaluru, I got injured in training. It was a relatively minor injury in my right leg but I missed two matches and at the time I was really down," he shares. "The team was travelling for an away match and I was in Jamshedpur working on my recovery and in those low moments, I wondered if I’d get another chance, whether the coach would pick me again. But then I got to play in the first match after I had recovered to full fitness, in Delhi," he continued, beaming. He also came on towards the end of Sunday’s match against Chennaiyin FC.
Mobashir has made five appearances so far, all off the bench, but he hopes one day soon, he’ll get a start. And if his track record of making his own dreams come true is anything to go by, I look forward to seeing his name among the first 11 on a team sheet before the end of the season.