A national-level football player during his school days, Tejas R wasn’t satisfied just playing the game. He wanted to change the entire scene of football in the country and that definitely wasn’t an easy task. But not one to be bogged down, Tejas started working towards his goals while pursuing engineering and today, he is a football coach, freestyler and referee.
He is also the founder of Sparky Football, based in Bengaluru, as part of which he teaches football to underprivileged kids) and travels the world to showcase his skills in the game.
What is your family background?
My mom is a housewife and my dad runs a transportation business. I have a younger brother who is in the ninth standard. Since my father wanted me to study engineering. I appeared for CET and joined RNSIT in Bengaluru. However, the main reason I joined the college was not because of my love for engineering, but because it had a great football ground!
Were you a good student?
I cleared CET with a good score so I was not that bad a student I guess (laughs). But I always used to wonder what is the point of studying something that wouldn’t help me or the society. Eventually, I failed a few subjects and had to drop out but I was happy to have another year because I could focus on the game.
What was the moment that made you take the leap of faith?
I was watching the farewell match of Baichung Bhutia and when India was thrashed by the German club, Bayern Munich, I decided we need to make changes at the grassroots. I started looking for places where people played football and meeting the local kids in order to teach them the nuances of the game.
What were the challenges you faced?
After I failed, I didn’t want to take any money from my parents and was staying alone in an apartment close to college. I was rejected at many interviews and there were times when I would go hungry and have no money for petrol. But I had to make ends meet so I started working in a call centre at night and practising freestyle football in the morning. Amidst this, I was also writing to schools and academies asking if I could work with them.
How did the breakthrough happen?
I made a video of everything that I had learnt and sent them to different schools and academies, some of which invited me to meet them. I put up the video on YouTube too and got many opportunities because of that. Soon I was coaching kids during the day and working at night.
What mistakes do you think you could have avoided in your journey?
After five years, I have learnt that there is no such thing as a mistake. You need to receive whatever comes your way rather than question it.
Tell us a bit about your travel experiences.
I dabbled with football clowning and started going to hospitals and slums to make people happy. I also started blogging and reached out to more people. One day, I decided to go the Himalayas by myself with just a few chocolates and a football. There, I met a photographer from Germany and we both went to schools and made a video about our experiences, which caught the attention of the TedX organisers. In 2013, I was one of the youngest Ted speakers in India.
Soon, I was selected to represent India in France for Euro 16. I also went to Switzerland, Nepal and Thailand and worked with refugee kids at the Thailand-Burma border.
What are the three critical things budding entrepreneurs need to focus on?
1. If you have something in mind, give life to it.
2. Once you create it, either you will win or lose. However, this is just a phase that will make you more creative.
3. Start implementing what you have learnt in a new way.
Are there more avenues now for youngsters?
There is a lot of information and opportunity on the internet these days. All one has to do is start. Once you find your passion, make it your purpose in life. You may make mistakes but in the end, you are writing your own story.
What is your personal philosophy?
I have one that I always follow – ‘Make your wounds proud’.
For more information, visit Sparky Football’s Facebook page. Here is the link to Tejas’ talk at TEDx :-