There is a sense of clarity in Holicharan Narzary’s movements on the football pitch, an arena he has made his own after having accidentally stumbled on to football.
The 24-year-old winger found space on the left flank for thrilling runs in both matches India won in the Intercontinental Cup at the Mumbai Football Arena. Ten years ago, life was different for him. The then 14-year-old was shifting jobs frequently in Assam’s Kokrajhar district, trying to find a direction and support his mother. “With no father around to look up to for guidance, I did whatever work was available in the village,” Narzary recalled.
“I worked in the rice fields, plucked leaves in tea gardens, tried to help in building roads and was once also a bus conductor. The money was small, ₹1500 a month, but mattered a lot at home,” he said.
He was introduced to football accidentally. “I saw children playing along the roadside during a walk with my grandfather and asked him if I, too, could play this game. He asked me to give it a try. With no money to buy boots, my attempt to play with bare feet was spotted by a Sports Authority of India coach whose encouragement and generosity with shoes and kit kept me going. Without football, I cannot even guess where I would be now,” Narzary said.
‘Want to play in the final’
Narzary’s pit stops on his path to success were India U-19, India U-23, Pailan Arrows, Dempo SC, DSK Shivajians, and two Indian Super League teams — North-East United FC, for whom he played for three seasons and FC Goa (one year). He signed a two-year contract with Kerala Blasters FC for the ISL 2018-19 season.
He arrived in Mumbai for the Intercontinental Cup with one clear intention. “I wanted to play in the final before going home.”
Ahead of the game against Kenya, the team was motivated to garner a win to mark Sunil Chhetri’s 100th international. Narzary said, “We wanted to gift him a victory and that is done. Playing well in the final is our next task.”
The Lionel Messi follower — “he is left-footed” — is clear that a football career as winger is about hard work. “I had no clue where life would take me. When I am on the pitch, I know what to do once I have judged the defender’s position.”
It has been a remarkable journey for the former bus conductor, who will hope to ensure another good outing come Thursday.
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