SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
Soccer trick shot player Shah Huzaib is busy assembling balls and baskets to practice his craft at his home in Kashmir’s Budgam district.
It has been routine for the 21-year-old since the 2016 unrest when Kashmir saw waves of violence and political instability after militant commander Burhan Wani was killed in a military operation.
Although Huzaib was more interested in playing cricket, the abrupt lockdown in the region forced him to sit at home like many others.
Huzaib wasted no time and learned freestyle soccer tricks.
“I remember some of my friends were playing soccer and I tried it too,” Huzaib said.
When none of his friends were around, he started playing by himself and learned how to play freestyle soccer.
When the internet was restored after the riots, Huzaib was eager to learn new tricks. He watched YouTube videos and was inspired by the “Dude perfect channel”, a US-based sports entertainment group that shows tricks.
“I was literally blown away by the tricks they did. It gave me a lot of confidence that I can do it too,” Huzaib said.
After practicing for two years, there was no turning back.
Over 400 trick shots
Huzaib has mastered over 400 tricks and has been featured on international platforms.
In May, the Spanish soccer club Sevilla FC posted his videos on its Instagram and Facebook pages.
His videos were also featured on the famous sports websites, “Oh My Goal” and “People Are Awesome”, where they garnered millions of views.
A video, “Insane trick-shot”, where he kicked a tennis ball through two moving reels of tape, generated around 5 million views on YouTube.
Another video was recently shared by German soccer player Tony Kroos on his Instagram account.
Huzaib received the 2021 Kashmir Young Achiever Award. In the same year, former Indian footballer Bhaichung Bhutia and Indian actor Sunil Shetty praised him on social media.
He was also a guest on various TV shows including Season 9 of India’s Got Talent.
Huzaib said tricks require a lot of training, patience, skill and presence of mind, but you can hit a perfect shot if you know how to juggle the ball.
“Juggling and controlling it is important. Although shooting, accuracy, and other calculations are equally important, juggling is imperative to a perfect trick shot,” he said.
He said trick shots in a match give you an advantage over other players.
“These trick shots make playing football more interesting because you have more advantage than others to play in a different way and score more,” he said.
Huzaib wants to take his tricks to an advanced level. He wants to become a star like his idol Cristiano Ronaldo, but at the same time he is discouraged by the lack of adequate sports infrastructure in the region.
“First of all, we don’t have a proper sports culture in our region. We don’t have coaches or the necessary infrastructure that young people can invest in, it breaks my heart,” she said.
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