(March 17, 2022) On a sunny day in 2016, a bored Shah Huzaib casually stepped out of his home in Charar-e-Shareef in central Kashmir’s Budgam district when he spotted three friends playing football. They asked him to fill in as a goalkeeper. It was a time when Kashmir was witnessing violence following the Burhan Wani killing which led to the closure of schools, internet shut down and several restrictions.
A few kicks and playing goalkeeper later, Huzaib felt drawn towards the sport. Before he knew it, the sport had become a passion. For the next two years, he fine-tuned his skills and built a reputation as a football trick-short artiste. Over a period of time, the Kashmiri lad mastered 400 different types of trick-shots, which won hearts across the internet. His mind boggling trickery took him to newer heights after the freestyle footballer got shoutouts from Indian football team skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, sports minister Kiren Rijiju, Bollywood star Suniel Shetty and more recently, from Real Madrid and Germany footballer Toni Kroos, who shared a video of Huzaib’s trick-shots.
— Bhaichung Bhutia (@bhaichung15) March 3, 2021
“My aim is to make trick-shots popular in India. I will be seeking help from the Indian Army to take trick-shots to every nook and corner of the country. I want to represent Kashmir and India on the international level someday,” Huzaib tells Global Indian. The most recent feather in his cap was when he was selected for India’s Got Talent season 9, for which he travelled to Delhi. “All the appreciation made me work harder,” he says.
Footie, and its beautiful shots
Before the football bug bit him, Huzaib, like a majority of Indians, was a die-hard cricket fan. Born in January 2002, his love affair with cricket began as a kindergartner. “I used to watch a lot of matches on TV, and watching Virat Kohli play led me to play cricket. I used to go to the local stadium every Friday and Sunday for matches,” informs the 20-year-old, whose father is in the fruit business, and mother a homemaker.
As he switched to football in 2016 after his chance introduction to the sport, Huzaib took the game a notch higher. Watching Cristiano Ronaldo on YouTube and other trick-shots videos, he was quick to buy a pair of football shoes, and practice rigorously. Thereafter, it was trick-shots all the way. “Of the 400 trick-shots I’ve mastered, some are very difficult, requiring focus and regular practice,” smiles the youngster, who schooled at Life School Kashmir and later at Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Charar-e-Sharif.
As he first burst onto the scene with his trick-shots, Huzaib received a lot of attention from Kashmiris. Soon the Kashmiri media took note of his talent and the resultant exposure motivated him to further hone his skills. Huzaib then got featured on a popular YouTube page, wherein his trick shots fetched him five million views. He went on to be featured on several other platforms including Oh My Goal, Sportskeeda, and Wion, etc.
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Religious with his practice, Huzaib ensures he gets in one hour of practice each day. “For each trick-shot, the skills required are different. The sport requires patience and hardwork and no one can learn or perform them overnight,” says the young lad, who hopes to get government support take up football as a full-time profession.
Trick-shots, says Huzaib, connected him with the world too. “The government needs to work more on sportspersons and provide them with the facilities to encourage and promote their talent. Only then can many here take up sports and do something meaningful, especially in Kashmir,” feels the youngster. “For now, my family and friends support me and share my work,” says Huzaib, who was preparing for his class 10 examinations when the Centre abrogated Article 370, which plunged Kashmir into chaos and uncertainty.
The talent to kick-off
When Huzaib got a call from India’s Got Talent team, he was on cloud nine. “I travelled to Delhi in October 2021 for auditions. I got an opportunity to interact with immensely talented people from across the country. Delhi has a lot of opportunities for talented people when compared to Kashmir,” says the trick-shot artiste, who likes to watch movies in his free time.
“Early on in life, I was often confused whether I should become a cricketer or a doctor. But now, my life revolves around football,” smiles the trick-shot artiste, who aims to make it big in the sport.
While Huzaib continues to make waves with his skills, the youngster has had to face quite a few challenges. He now hopes for far more recognition. “Government support apart, even society does not appreciate or support what I do. Even the footballing scenario is not very developed,” he rues.
- Follow Shah Huzaib on Twitter