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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wooing women with the magic of football

When Noel Wilson learnt how a poor boycalled Diego Maradona played in the slum streets of Villa Fiorito in Buenos Aires, he secretly wished, "God, if only I could play like that..." He kicked a football for the first time when he was five, as one of the 60 boys of class one at St Antony's School in the city. And that was the beginning of a dalliance with the ball which propelled Wilson, born to a poor Anglo-Indian family at Austin Town in Bangalore, into the international soccer circuit.

Today, with more than 300 matches and 40 goals in his pocket, this young, stylish midfielder is back in his one-room shanty in Austin Town. The boy whose mother cried in fear of her only son getting hurt in the "ruffian game," is today the pride star of the family of five, and he adds with a simper, "by Lord's Grace."

Standing 5 ft 10, this stocky 28-year-old eligible bachelor now wears the jersey No 8 (his lucky number) for Mumbai FC.

What strikes a visitor most is his gangling hairstyle much like former Argentinian superstar Gabriel Batistula and several tattoos of the Virgin Mary and the Saviour in Cross on his body. "Because, I am a believer, and I also believe one has to be attractive on the field. After all, I'm an entertainer." His looks won him enough attention to model for Zee Sports as well.

"With his searing pace and excellent dribbling ability, Wilson gave the game a touch of class," observes a sportswriter from Goa, when the player was with Churchill Brothers, Goa. He was the find of the SAI coach Sampat, as an 11-year-old. "Books gave me a headache," Wilson smiles, "I stopped my studies after class 10, though my parents and my sisters wanted me to continue."

Wilson debunks the theory that one is born with a golden foot: "One could be born with certain facilities for a game but soccer playing is not something one can develop without love for the game and dedication."

His professional career began with FC Kochi. He later put on the spiked boots for Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers, and played for the country for four years. "My most memorable moment was in the final of the tournament to mark Sri Lanka's 50th year of Independence. My goal gave India the trophy." And, his last was the pre-qualifying World Cup match in 2002.

But the Golden Boy bowed to crass politics of Indian football in 2003, when four Bangalorean boys who had performed well were dumped and four others were inducted for the England tour.
Wilson's dream is to launch an initiative for his native Bangalore through a "football appreciation club": "Today, it's all a man's game, and women feel left out. We can make the game eve-friendly with a separate enclosure for them and a club that makes them familiar with the nuances of the game."

MLA Derrick Fullinfaw, a mentor of Wilson and a fan of football, has offered Rs5 lakhs from his MLA fund to start one for Bangalore.
Today, Wilson has one more passion in life besides football--Goa. He loves the state where "the game is enjoyed for the game's sake," and shyly admits, given a choice, he'd go for a Goan life-partner.

Making room for the sport
Wilson says playing football boosts one's concentration and self-confidence. In a city like Bangalore, where bricks and cement have taken over every inch of spare space, how will children play
football? Here are his suggestions:

Learn to control the ball with your foot and head. This does not warrant a playground. During the day, when vehicles are taken out your parking lot or basement, the space can serve your kids.

Play in parks, except during the peak walkers' time

Blind alleys make for good practice spots, where traffic is rare
In the backyard, if you are lucky to have an independent house

Even in the living room, if your room does not have much glassware

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