Meeting your childhood heroes is rare and rarer still is a chance to play alongside them. For professional futsal player Faizan Thange (22), his dreams became a reality when he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Ronaldinho, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in the Premier Futsal League.
This striker-cum-winger has played professional football in the I-League’s second-division for Kenkre FC and represented Union Bank in the Elite Division but the even more striking fact is how he overcame a rare heart condition to come back better than ever.
Beginning of a love affair
Faizan’s interest in futsal began when, on a friend’s recommendation, he participated in the Futsal Association of India trials in Pune and was selected to represent Mumbai Mavericks in a national-level tournament. There was no looking back as he soon aced the Premier Futsal trials and was amongst the top-100 futsal players in India selected for a boot-camp in Chennai. There, he was selected in the best 36 and played alongside former Argentina striker Hernan Crespo for the Kolkata 5s in the 2016 Premier Futsal.
“I am a sprinter so I like things which are very fast,” says Faizan, on the lure of futsal. “The main difference between football and futsal is that futsal is quicker and the field is smaller. You need to have a shorter vision because of the field and the number of people you play along with since futsal is five-a-side. As a football player, futsal is in your blood already. You need to think quickly, be agile and take decisions as fast as possible. That’s the reason I started playing futsal,” he adds.
Introduction to football
He recollects how his decision to switch schools from Thane to St. Mary's School (ICSE), Mazgaon, made all the difference! While his old school was bereft of any sports facilities he still managed to set the Thane district sprint record in the under- 14 category.
His shift to St. Mary's School in 6th grade introduced him to football when his school coach identified his potential. Also, the fact that he had an athletics and sprinting background boosted his chances of making the cut to the school team.
Rise to fame
He participated in inter-school tournaments across the city and grabbed attention with a goal against St. Xavier’s School, Fort, in an MSSA tournament. That goal spread his name across city newspapers, with an interview to follow.
It was a real eye-opener to his parents who realised that there was a future in the sport. Fortunately, his father – a former international-level kabaddi player – gave him the go-ahead to take up football as a full-time profession.
Maturing as a player
It was the beginning of an incredible journey as Faizan rose through the ranks. “I played for Mumbai inter-district and emerged victorious there and then played for Kenkre FC I was the top scorer for both their U-17 and U-19 teams.” A big leap to the Elite Division followed with Union Bank of India. A clutch of stirring performances there prompted a recall from Kenkre FC, for whom he had previously turned up as a teenager. “I would specially like to mention my coach Mr Floyd Pinto who was a backbone for me. He saw potential in me when I was playing for Kenkre in U-17 and U-19. While playing for Union Bank of India my coach Mr Julian D' Silva helped me a lot to become a more mature player.”
Fighting heart disease
He might have been exceptional on the football field but as a youngster, he was diagnosed with Tachycardia, a very rare heart condition. “For two days, my heartbeat was running at the speed of 200 beats per minute. The ECG machine was not able to catch my heartbeats and the doctors were on the verge of conducting shock treatment. Luckily, my father consulted another doctor and it was diagnosed and treated.” Incidentally, he shares this rare condition with celebrated footballer Cristiano Ronaldo who was treated for it as a 15-year-old. Just like Ronaldo, Faizan was back after a few days’ rest and started playing harder than ever, scoring two goals in his very first game for Mumbai District in the super division!
Football and life
Faizan’s affinity for quick decision-making is helpful in his current pursuit of an MBA course from a prestigious management institute in Mumbai. He reminisces about the support from his parents and coaches along the way. “My father was a sports player and my parents really supported me. When I got the chance to play at such good levels, they said, ‘If you think you think you can proceed further, you can easily go ahead.’”
His love for sport has even affected other aspects of his life. “From the time I’ve been playing, sports can be a thing from which you can learn a lot. The things you learn from sports you can actually execute in your day-to-day life. Also, you get to spend time with the people who you never met before. Most importantly, it keeps you fit which is the most important thing in the current situation as India is an emerging country in sports. So, you need to try hard in sports,” he concludes.