It is a quiet winter day and a perfect time for a game of football. Perfect, that is, for everyone but an obese teenager sitting on his couch, glued to the TV set. But he didn’t seem to care much about his expanding girth. He just took care of his academics and that was that. On TV, they played his favourite sport; football. The beautiful game, as it is known. He watched one of Brazil’s finest, Ronaldinho, ripping apart teams from around the globe with his Ginga style of play.
“I was introduced to Ronaldinho, whom I consider my inspiration till date,” says 19-year-old Ashwin Hariprasad, who has come a long way from being that kid on the couch to a confident footballer. “I used to weigh almost 106 kilos until one day, I realised that I have to do something about it. So, I thought of using football as a medium to get fitter and become a better athlete.”
Ashwin was 16 when he turned to football. In less than two-and-a-half years, he has shed half his prior body weight. “I joined a football school, FCB Escola in Matunga.” However, after landing in the school, he realized that he had to work on his game. Ashwin could neither kick properly nor make a pass.
On-field skills were not the only thing that pushed him back. “For a guy who is so obese, he will find many reasons to give up because he just can’t cope with that kind of physical activity. I was also going through emotional pressure.” Ashwin didn’t give up though. He approached the problems step-by-step.
“Firstly, I started going to a gym. It was there that I started losing weight. After losing about five kilos, I started going out on the field and started playing football.” At FCB Escola, Ashwin started getting more confident with the ball and it expanded his idea about how to play efficiently. “One of the biggest strengths I have is speed. I primarily play as a winger and sometimes a striker. I am also a really good finisher and I really like scoring goals.” Ashwin played in the Escola’s pro league where they had finished runners-up of the tournament. He also used to play for Castle Boys for a brief period, but he reckons that Escola has played a big role in his development as a footballer.
Ashwin, who is now a final-year student of Jai Hind College, pursuing a bachelor in Banking and Insurance, had to work hard to convince his parent about his commitment towards football. “Eventually, my parents realised that football is the only thing that I am passionate about and keeps me going in life.”
“Once I completed a step over and an elastico, skipping past four players in the process to score. It is one of my most vivid memories of me scoring a goal.” Ashwin is still hungry for more, though. He is pushing his boundaries on the field and wants to strengthen his footballing skills. “One of the most important lessons football has taught me is a sense of direction and it has kept me committed to achieving a particular goal.”
His message for other aspiring footballers is loud and clear. “Don’t stick to your comfort zone. Go and play on the grounds. Ultimately, from my viewpoint, you don’t enjoy football as much on the turf as on the ground.” He expects others to take the tougher route to success just the way he did.
Most importantly, Ashwin still tries to emulate Ronaldinho’s tricks on the pitch. The only thing that pushed him towards perfection still keeps him going.