You Are Not Welcome
Rahul walked up to the door, unsure of what to expect. He had been here before, but only as a young boy, trying to make it as a footballer. The fully-grown and almost bald man, still remembered that day in its entirety.
It was 2 weeks before the football season was scheduled to start and it was a good time to be a 15 year old football fan, but for Rahul, it wasn't. He wasn't happy merely watching football in the massive Cooperage stadium - he wanted to play there. The stumbling block was that it was a bad time for football in India, similar to the time the game in the country is in right now, where academies didn't take you in on merit, but on the basis of the fees you paid. You couldn't get your name on the academy's team sheet if you didn't pay them six months fees in advance, and Rahul's family couldn't even afford to send him to a nice school, let alone pay for him to play a sport, but he just wanted it so bad. He went from every club stadium to club stadium, training parks to seminars just to get someone to pay attention to him, but he was always shoo'ed away.
He had heard from his friend that various managers would be asked to take a refresher course in 'Football Management', and it would happen in that building. He wasn't sure what he was doing there, without his cleats, wearing a shirt and jeans. All he had was a roughed up football that was one good kick away from bursting. He just waited, staring at the cars that went by, hoping to see a famous face - and there he was, Anil Singh, the Air India manager. The former superstar on the pitch had taken up management merely five years ago, but had already become one of the best in the country. What particularly made Rahul look up to him was his rags-to-riches story, poor kid becomes an icon. Rahul kicked the ball forward, walking towards the car and did The Popcorn with relative ease. He wasn't sure Anil Singh noticed, so he did it again and again, until the car engine came to a stop and the manager stepped out of his car.
"That's some nice skills you got there, kid. Got some more interesting ones?", said Singh, walking towards Rahul, who had let the ball run away from him. "Can you do this?". Singh flicked the ball up and passed it back to Rahul. "Of course I can", replied the confident Rahul, replicating the move perfectly.
"So, are you any good at playing the game, or just like to mess around with the ball? The condition of this ball tells me you've kicked it too hard one too many times.", was the manager's comment, which offended Rahul. "You would've known if you let me play. I showed up to the training camp last week where your staff was teaching boys as old as me how to kick a ball. I am better now than all of them will ever be, but I wasn't given a chance - because I couldn't pay the fees."
Singh replied calmly, "There are some rules in place which I have no control over, but let's just give it a try and see how good you really are. If you are even half as good as you think you are, we'll work something out. I'll get you into my team, and I'll make sure you develop well. Be there at Cooperage tomorrow at 11am. You'll be practicing with the big boys, the senior team."
Brought out of the flashback by a sudden loud voice shouting directly in his ear, Rahul turned around. "What the hell are you doing here? You are not welcome into any AIFF or AIFF related institution. Do you have no shame? After everything that happened, you really have the guts to show up here? Get lost."