Every other day, Mahadeo Patil would drop Rs20 into their “piggy box”, pulling out little amounts whenever needed for his two growing sons. This was the backup for a family that needed every bit to make ends meet.
With an average daily income just enough to support a family of four, the autorickshaw driver had to make sure his sons got whatever they wanted, though the younger one, Kailash, only wanted to play football.
Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Today, 23-year-old Kailash Patil contributes to the “piggy box” with his earnings from Air India Football Club. The sum is substantial, for Air India takes care of his living in expensive Mumbai. He has been part of the team for two years now, playing with consistent success in the I-League, the country’s leading club tournament.
Kailash still finds it difficult to believe that he has made the journey to Mumbai only because of football. Growing up in Kolhapur, around 400km away, Kailash would play with other children from the neighbourhood in a nearby ground, for the sheer joy of sport, never believing it would one day become his career.
The first step towards making something out of football was a local under-14 camp he attended with borrowed shoes. Soon, he was playing local tournaments, when Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) coach Kishor Khedkar spotted him and brought him to Mumbai. He had a successful 2005 season with RCF. “But the Rs2,700 I got was not enough to live here, so I went back to Kolhapur the next season,” says Patil.
He was injured for most of 2006 and returned to RCF at the end of the next year with a slightly better salary. Success in the local Mumbai District Football Association’s league got him the best player’s award, and earned him Air India’s attention. He played for it for the first time in the 2009 season.
“Now I can send money home,” says Patil, without revealing how much that is. “I really do want to play for India to fulfil my father’s dream. Besides that, since I have only seven-eight years left in the sport, I am always open to opportunities from other clubs.”
He realizes coming to Mumbai was his big break. “Had I been still in Kolhapur, I would have been playing in the same galis (alleys) with my friends. Nothing would have changed in my life or career.”
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