THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Some men have a natural instinct to play; others to run, or write or paint. Shahid Safar, on the other hand, possesses the sublime skill to juggle football without a break for hours, depending on his stamina.
As a kid at a pre-primary school, he would kick anything that wouldn’t physically hurt him into the air, tossing it up either with his feet or thighs. A few years later, he is a dedicated freestyle juggler, and completely self-taught.
He has dazzled crowds with his joyful ball-juggling tricks at half-time during the Federation Cup football matches,
Sait Nagjee International Club Football, TNIE GOAL final and many other tournaments. “I can feel the excitement growing in the stadium,” he says. “I can hear the oohs and the aahs. I can sense the admiration among the crowd when I take the stage at half-time. It gives me immense happiness.”
Safar, a plus-two student at Government Higher Secondary School, Pandikkad, learned to walk chasing a football gifted to him by his father. Rather than play, his instinct lay on kick-ups. So, he juggled the ball before kicking it around.
“When I got the ball first time, I did not even know whether freestyle football existed. Earlier, as a kid, it was difficult to find the rhythm, but I felt I could do it if I kept practising. Like anything, it takes some time before your body gets adjusted to new ways,” says Safar. The 17-year-old boy of Pandikkad, near Malappuram, could very well use his feet, knee, head, thighs, shin, heel,
shoulders and chest for his tricks with the ball. He could go on for hours without stopping. All this he learnt without an instructor. “I can say I learned it all by myself. I might have seen some styles on television and some on YouTube. But I never had a teacher. I can show off my skills, but if you ask me to name them one by one, I may find it difficult,” he says.
Safar is gracefully slender and below medium height, but possesses enormous stamina; his patience, too, is incredible and his vigilance unceasing.
“Deep down, I want to be a footballer. You cannot be a player because you have all these skills. My tricks may give me some control over the ball, but when on the pitch, you have to do lots of running, positioning, intelligence and all,” says Safar, who idolises Brazilian Ronaldinho.