From Ryan in Mumbai to Hyderabad FC Navi Mumbai’s footballer Nikhil Poojary knows being professional is a challenge and overcoming the hurdle will make the difference

10:28 PM May 13, 2021 | Joe Williams

Mumbai: As kids, it was hard for anyone to comprehend that professional athletes were just normal people with athletic abilities. And as they grow up, they also think that these professional athletes are bigger than life and had everything figured out. Everyone loved them, they had tons of money and they were living the dream every day.

But after having turned professional, it has become more clear that being a professional athlete isn’t as glamorous as many think about, but a challenge and overcome the hurdle will make the difference.


Meet the Navi Mumbai player, Nikhil Poojary, he is no different. A St Augustine school pass out from Nerul, today he is a professional footballer. It is good to be there as a professional athlete, but at the same time he feels that one has to maintain his/her place there, which is challenging. The winger with Hyderabad FC has had many summers with different clubs in the country.


Born in Mangalore, Karnataka, Poojary started his career with Ryan FC in Mumbai before turning out for Mumbai FC in the AIFF Youth Leagues. And now dons the Hyderabad FC colours in the Indian Super League.

His outing with Ryan FC in the city caught the eye of Kolkata-based East Bengal, who signed him up in 2015.

Having represented East Bengal in the CFL and I-League during two seasons, Poojary returned to Maharashtra and joined Pune City.

Though injuries have halted his progress in the current season of the ISL, Poojary’s versatility still makes him one of the most important members of the squad at Hyderabad FC. Even at 25, he is a senior among the young squad at the club and will have a crucial role to play under Manuel Marquez, for the next few seasons.

Poojary, who also dons the Indian colours spoke to FPJ on his journey.

Q. Did you ever think you would become a professional athlete?

No. I wanted to take part in many events, and win medals. I used to think that professional athletes different from others and they had their own way of lifestyle.

Q. Now that you are one among them. Your take?

Yes, it is good to be there. But, it is an enormous challenge and overcoming these hurdles will keep one moving on the right path.

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Q. Tells us about your early life and family

A: I hail from Navi Mumbai, and like any other Mumbaikar, we are a middle-class family. We had modest upbringings. My Dad was the sole breadwinner back then. He gave my brother and me, everything we asked for and supported us. My Mother was our pillar of support who took care of everything at home.

Q. What has been the impact of the ISL in Indian football?

A: The ISL has had a tremendous impact on Indian football. The reason I say that is that, we have had top grounds, facilities and great coaches. It has brought with it a structure to Indian football that is sustainable and will have a positive impact on the long-term future of the sport in the country.

Q. What’s your take on the ISL, then and now?

A: Honestly, I have just started my career, but having played in the last three years the ISL has brought in a solid structure to Indian Football.

Q. At the time of the pandemic, what is your way of life?

A: It’s been difficult for everyone. It’s been a year to forget, but as an athlete, you try to do how much you can to help your family and friends in these times. And the other times you try to follow a routine so that you can keep yourself in an excellent condition.

Q. Why football? When the entire country is obsessed with cricket?

Ah, it's a choice I made quite early. It was also because of the school I went to. We'd be more focused on football and athletics rather than Cricket. Having said that, I do enjoy playing cricket.

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