- Meet FIFA Fan Movement member Mohammed Umar from Mumbai
- Long-time Man United fan missed out on chance to visit club as player
- Later on, his dream came true - twice - via an unexpected route
Football fans who support their clubs from afar regularly enter competitions that offer up the chance to win a pair of plane and match tickets to watch their team in action in person.
Winning an experiencing like that just once can make a supporter’s life and dreams come true, but one lucky Manchester United fan based in Mumbai incredibly got the opportunity twice.
“It’s very difficult [being a fan in a vastly different time zone] because you have to be awake at 12:30, 1:00 in the morning,” Umar, who got hooked on the Red Devils during the Cristiano Ronaldo-late Sir Alex Ferguson era, told FIFA.com.
“When I was in college, that lifestyle suited me, but now with my schedule I end up missing a lot of matches these days. Also, over here, cricket is everywhere. You have to be specific about where you’re going to watch football, so that can be a challenge.”
Umar, who now specialises in tricks and skills and loves futsal, became a football fan when he was 14-years-old in school and eventually found his way to Manchester United soccer schools for two years, where he narrowly missed out on the chance to go over to Manchester United soccer schools in the UK.
“The only goal was to go to Manchester United. We were heartbroken not to go, I even cried. After that, I gave up on that dream.”
Umar’s love for the game has seen him play futsal internationally in Malaysia, India and in Greece. Nowadays he coaches a football academy in Mumbai geared specifically for the adult working population, while he also trains marathon runners in his spare time.
“Football’s a sport like that, once you start playing it you really start to enjoy it. The only reason we have to take breaks is for the rain in Mumbai!”
A dream risen from the ashes
In 2018 Umar took part in a competition run by Manchester United involving trick shots. He produced and edited a video and ended up winning a trip to see the club.
“We first went to all the fancy tourist attractions in London, “Umar said. “We got to Manchester and had an Old Trafford tour on the first day and the next day was the Burnley game.
“The experience was amazing because the small details you see, you don’t see them here [in Mumbai]: the quality of play and mostly the atmosphere—it was a wild experience. The only thing I was anxious about was the fact I had waited years for this, flown all that way…we couldn’t lose! I had that feeling during the entire game.” Luckily for Umar, they didn’t lose.
The next year he took part in another challenge where he made a video and explained why he became a United fan. He talked about how he always wanted to play for United, had been to every public screening of games in Mumbai—“anything United, and I was there!”
What set his video apart was he attached a video of him playing futsal against Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs with the accompanying line ‘From Idols to Rivals’.
“That video picked up and I won a trip for two! So this time my mother joined me for the trip. So the past two years I’ve won a trip to United, so I plan to make it a hat-trick this year. Let’s see.”