Kerala footballer lost a leg in an accident, but it hasn’t stopped him from playing – The News Minute
“My uncle was standing next to my bed at the ICU. I felt a throbbing pain on my right leg. I asked him if he can massage it. On hearing this, he ran out of the room, crying. I tried to move my hand to massage my leg but couldn’t feel it. I lifted my head and found that my leg was not there,” narrates Vyshak SR. “Can we finish the interview by 4 pm? I have to go out and play,” the 24-year-old quips next.
Though Vyshak lost his leg 11 years ago in an accident, it didn’t stop him from doing what he loved – playing football. Today, he is a part of the Indian amputee volleyball team as well as the first amputee football team of India.
A native of Perambra in the Kerala’s Kozhikode district, Vyshak had given himself to ambitions to choose from – he would either join the military or become a football player. “I was someone who always wanted to do some or the other outdoor activity. And naturally, I hated to study!” he shares.
“The only thing my friends and I did during summer vacations was playing football the entire day,” recalls Vyshak.
It was on one such summer day, that an ad in the newspaper caught Vyshak’s eye – it was a call for trials for selection of a football team in Kozhikode. “I was 13 years old then. I badly wanted to attend the selection trials. On the selection day, my cousin brother said he will drop me to the selection ground on his bike,” narrates Vyshak.
But that’s when tragedy struck. “On the way from aunt’s house, an approaching KSRTC bus came and hit our vehicle. Both my cousin and I were thrown onto the road,” Vyshak says. After a pause, he adds, “While I was lying on the road, a vehicle ran over my legs.”
Vyshak remembers what people said when they took him to the hospital. “I could hear them around me, talking, saying I would not survive.”
He was in the ICU for over a week after the surgery. His right leg was severely injured that it had to be amputated. Following the surgery, the left leg was supported using a rod. “It took me one week to realise that one of my leg was missing,” he says, with a painful laugh.
“There was only one thought in my head while I was lying on my hospital bed – how will I play football now?” he recalls. Vyshak also had to spend two months in physiotherapy to strengthen his left knee.
He did not share his sadness with family members too much. “The thought of living the rest of my life depending on other people bothered me a lot. And to make things worse, everyone used to look at me with sympathy,” he says.
However, it helped that his friends helped him feel more normal, and treated him like before. “My friends were the only people who behaved normally with me. They used to come home straight from school and play all sorts of games like carrom and chess – the ones that can be played while sitting down,” Vyshak fondly recalls.
The turning point
A year passed after the accident. Vyshak was at home, bored of watching his friends play outside, when his eyes fell on his bicycle. “I thought, enough is enough. I tried to ride the cycle with one leg and obviously, fell down, hurt my left knee badly, and again had to be treated for two months,” Vyshak shares.
But the idea had taken root. The first thing he did after his treatment was to learn how to cycle with one leg, followed by swimming, and even driving a car.
One day, Vyshak realised that he was able to pick up speed even while walking with crutches. “I thought if I can walk really fast with my crutches, I should be able to kick the ball as well,” he recounts.
And thus began Vyshak’s return to the game he loved. With his friends’ unwavering support, he started playing football. “I like it when my friends foul me, that means that they are considering me as any other player,” he says.
Those were the days when Vyshak was a BSc Zoology student at the Devagiri college in Kozhikode. One day, the college football team coach, Niyaz, saw him playing football with his hostel mates and came to speak with him. “I asked him if there is a team for amputee players. He said if I can arrange players to play for two teams, he can arrange a tournament,” Vyshak says.
Vyshak began searching for amputee football players and in this process, he got acquainted with Kishore, a man who works with handicapped athletes. “Kishore sir told me that there was no amputee football team as such but there was an amputee team for Kerala volleyball.”
And just like that, Vyshak who became a member of the Kerala volleyball amputee team went on to represent the Indian Volleyball amputee team.
But, he still had dreams of playing professional football.
“Around two months back, I got to know that the Indian Football Federation, for the first time ever, was sending an Indian team for the Asian Cup amputee football tournament. I appeared for the selection trials and got through,” Vyshak shares excitedly.
Following the completion of his BSc degree, Vyshak had taken up a job as a pharmacist in a homeopathy clinic in Idukki. But after his selection to the Indian amputee football team, he quit his job to focus on training. “Once the date and venue for the tournament are finalised, the team will begin training,” he says.
Vyshak tells TNM that many handicapped people he knows are ashamed of their disability. “I never thought about it like that. As far as I’m concerned, I wanted to do everything that a person does. My not having a leg did not stop me from that,” Vyshak says, not long before he starts receiving calls from his friends, asking him to get to the playground quickly.