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When a footballer dons Zomato jersey!

It reflects plight of sportsmen in India; Bhopal-based footballer, winner of over 60 medals & mass media graduate, working as Zomato delivery agent to make both ends meet.

When a footballer dons Zomato jersey!

When a footballer dons Zomato jersey! 

Covid-19 has struck livelihoods of millions of people in India with some retorting to menial labour to earn a living. Such is the story of 23-year-old Nitin Iyer (name changed on request), a professional footballer from Madhya Pradesh, who has taken up job as food delivery executive to make both ends meet during the uncertain times.

The young athlete has numerous accolades to his name, including winning over 60 medals at All India and State Karate Championship from the year 2009 to 2014. What started as an interest in martial arts and Karate training soon transpired to passion for football for Nitin who has been playing the sport professionally for the past five years.

Born and brought up in Bhopal, Nitin says that his journey in choosing football as a profession did not come with an advice manual. Even as the country celebrated the recent victory of Argentina soccer player Lionel Messi in Copa America, ironically, India doesn't support its domestic players.

"I started my athletic journey with Karate since my father has been Karate coach for 38 years. I was even nominated for Eklavya award for two years in a row. I started playing football when I was 12-13 years old but no one warned me as to what the future of a footballer is in India," Nitin told BizzBuzz. But, like hundreds of professional athletes in the country, the reality remains that footballers in India are grossly underpaid and can't sustain their livings on the occasional salaried payments. Nitin says that even with adequate experience and graduate degree, the salary of a footballer is not very different than that of a food delivery executive.

"Last year when the lockdown happened, everything came to a standstill for me and my family. I could not participate in any tournaments while my father could not coach students Karate. Overnight the world shifted to the online medium and my parents are not well-versed with the online mode of coaching," Nitin said.

The second wave of Covid-19 this year has driven Nitin to look for a salaried job since footballers such as him get paid only during the tournaments for 2 to 3 months. Currently working as a food delivery executive with Zomato, Nitin says that the salary of a professional footballer is equivalent to his earnings now as a delivery boy which comes to roughly Rs. 13,000-Rs. 15,000 a month.

"The difference here being is that Zomato pays me on time whereas footballers have to wait months to get their tournament amount, "he added.

With limited family income, Nitin decided to work for the food delivery app in June after failing to land a job for months. The athlete did his graduation in Mass Media from KC College, Mumbai, in the year 2018.

His day starts with practicing football at 5:30am and by 11am to 12 pm, Nitin gets ready to begin his job as a food delivery agent. According to Nitin, the job profile requires him to drive a minimum of 11 hours per day to qualify for any extra credits or income. He also said that in the recent months, the football associations, as a part of their downsizing strategy, have not invited footballers from Bhopal to Delhi to take part in the tournament.

"My parents are retired and I can't sit idle at home. These uncertain times require me to earn a living and be financially backed. But such is the life of a footballer here in India. There are no investments on us. Either you have to be a cricketer to earn a handsome salary or maybe play for an elite football club," Nitin expressed his helplessness.

Archana Rao
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