16-year-old Nazrin makes smooth transition from football goal to badminton court

As a child, Nazrin Farza would often listen to her father Rafeek Mohammad about his days as a goalkeeper for Mohammedan Sporting FC and later Reserve Bank of India. Rafeek, who played in the 2003 Federation Cup final against Mahindra United, wanted his only daughter to be a football custodian and she did train as a goalkeeper initially before switching to badminton.

On Friday, after the 16-year-old from Kerala completed a 15-4, 15-9 win over Pratishtha Rana of Rajasthan to move into the third qualification round of the U-19 category in the 29th Yonex-Sunrise Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial. All India Junior Ranking Selection Tournament at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, she waited for her father’s call post his meetings.

“I grew up reading and listening about my father being a national-level goalkeeper and that’s why I opted to become a goalkeeper. I played as one for Ananthapuri Football Club for more than five years but then my father would also make me play sports like tennis, swimming and badminton. When we decided to make the switch to badminton, he told me that he will support me unconditionally and whenever I win a match, he tells me to update him whether he is busy in bank meetings or not,” says Nazrin.

In her initial years as a player, mother Seema Refeek would drop her at Ananthapuri Football Club before Nazrin joined the TOSS Academy after deciding to focus on badminton.

With Indonesian BWF Level-1 coach Stefanus Rendy Desmawan as coach, Nazrin would hone her game at the academy and would soon become district champion. Meeting former Olympic champion Taufiq Hidayat there is her most cherished moment. There was some resistance from relatives over the sporting attire but her parents supported her. “Both in football and badminton, one has to wear shorts. When some of our relatives told me or my father that I should wear a full-length tracksuit, my father told them it’s his daughter’s decision to play whichever sport she likes.

Later they all understood and supported me,” Nazrin said. Steady progress The youngster played her first All-India Ranking tournament in the U-15 and U-17 categories in 2018 but missed the main draw after winning three matches. The following year, she competed in four All-India Ranking tournaments with her best result being the third qualification round in the U-15 category at the Guwahati ranking tourney, apart from a loss to Unnati Hooda in the Trivandrum ranking tourney.

Last year, Nazrin competed for the first time at the senior level and reached the fourth qualification round in the Senior Ranking Series at Hyderabad before losing to Sneha Rajwar. While she shifted to Bengaluru to train at the Isports academy under coach Krishnakumar last year, Nazrin contracted Covid-19 earlier this year which meant she had to skip some of the junior events.

“Making the shift from Trivandrum to Bengaluru meant that my mother had to shift with me. When I contracted Covid-19, I would make her throw shuttles to me in the dining room so that I could be active,” said Nazrin. Before shifting to Bengaluru, she also trained under eight-time national doubles champion Sanave Thomas at Trivandrum for more than 18 months. “Initially, I had to work on her movement and speed on the court as she was a bit slow. It was also the time when most of the sports complexes were closed due to Covid-19. So, her parents would try to book school or individual club courts for training. Shifting to Bengaluru means that she will get to compete against a variety of players and that’s what’s needed for her to win a title and play consistently,” said Thomas.

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