Mumbai’s Aarish Ansari Is Taking Freestyle Football To Another Level
23 year old Mumbai lad, Aarish Ansari, is charting new heights in freestyle football with his awesome performances. He recently made it to the Guinness Book of World Records with the most number of football cross-overs in stipulated time limit; he did 54 cross-overs in 30 seconds while sitting. Apart from this feat, he also represents India at the Asian Freestyle Football Federation where he looks after the development and promotion of the sport in India.
Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Edgar Davids have all contributed to making freestyle a famous sports form. Youngsters from all over the country are today avid fans of Freestyle football. Here is what we learned in our conversation with Aarish.
Love Affair with Football
Talking about his first brush with the sport of football, Aarish gleefully replies, “Since I was 8 years old, my parents used to take me for cricket practice. I didn't like it though. Then one day, on a special request by some people, football practice was started in our school for under-eight players. I still remember my first practice session; it was a Thursday and for the first time ever, I got to wore my new studs and an Italian team jersey. I was pretty much charged up about it. That was the first time I actually played on a proper ground. I also used to play in my complex with the big guys but they always made me the goalkeeper”. (He smiles in retrospect)
On asking if not a footballer, what would he have been, he says, “If not a footballer, I'd have probably been an engineer working at some 9 to 5 job right now”.
Having started at the school level, Aarish went on to play football at district level too for Mumbai. On asking what his plans were then, he tells us, “I had already been playing football since my school days. So I was confident that I'd make it to a good level in football and make it my full-time profession. My parents were okay with my decision but they had a condition. They wanted me to complete my studies first and then pursue my own plans. They were worried that if I get injured I might have to quit. Coming from a traditional background, they were right in their thinking. Even I knew having a backup plan was always good. Hence, I managed my game alongside my academics”.
His Injury and Second Chance
Aarish suffered an injury in 2011 while playing in the Mumbai district tournament. And with that, the course of his life changed a bit. Aarish tells us, “I can never forget that pop sound when I got injured; it was a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It was the most painful thing ever. I got home limping and applied some ice pack. At that time, I didn't think it was something major. I still went ahead and completed that season wearing a knee brace. Now when I think about it, I know it wasn't the best idea because that lead to another injury after which I had to completely stop playing football. It left me pretty dejected. For sometime, I was lost and even contemplated working a regular job as an alternate course of action. But back in my mind, I knew I still wanted to be in and around the world of football”.
Discovering Freestyle Football
A turning point came in Aarish’s life when his friend introduced him to the freestyle football. Aarish tells us, “My friend and I used to practice juggling the ball in my building. This was my first brush with freestyle football. For the next 2-3 months, we met daily to practice for hours every day. That is when I found out that freestyle is actually a different sport. Gradually I started experimenting with different moves. I once watched Ronaldinho’s moves in an ad and started trying to replicate them. This added to my skills and I haven't looked back ever since”.
He further adds, “The main distinction between football and freestyle football is that in football, one plays to win but freestyle form gives you the ability to express yourself with football”.
But this didn’t mean that Aarish had a smooth road ahead. He faced some resilience from his parents. He says, “My parents used to think I was wasting my time doing random things with a football. They didn’t understand freestyle football back then. But as years passed, I got better at it. I started working in ads, won competitions, and performed across the country. That is when that doubt in my parents' mind transformed into pride. Today they proudly tell everyone about my work and talent”.
‘Art of Football Freestyle Academy’
Aarish along with his friends run the Art of Football Freestyle Academy where they teach young people freestyle football on weekends. Aarish says that since he never received any professional guidance when he started, he wants to make sure that he imparts his skills to the people passionate about this form of sport.
About the Future
Asking about how far he has come and what all he has accomplished, Aarish humbly replies, “To be honest I really don't feel I have achieved a lot. I still have a long way to go and so many goals to accomplish. All this while what has kept me going is my immortal love for football and a burning desire to do something others won't even try. I like to carve my own path, take the road less travelled”.
On asking him about his message to our readers, he quickly replies, “The most important part is- Do what you love, love what you do”.
Currently, Aarish is running Art of Football Freestyle Academy. He also participates in various events all over India in which he displays his unparalleled expertise in freestyle football.