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06.03.2017

Harpreet Baweja is Happy. That’s his nickname, but we’re also referring to his state of mind. Between partying it up at Butter Events and unwinding at Aroma Thai Spa – both of which he owns – he now claims to have something that truly excites him. Apparently, butter and back rubs just aren’t enough. 

Harpreet has kickstarted Roots Premier League, a local Bandra league for footballers with day jobs, along with partners, actor and event planner Santino Morea; ex Mumbai FC captain Nishant Mehra; and Tyler Randell, a coach from Australia. They established the league a month ago with six teams (Bay City, Bandra Athletic, Sporting Orion, Raiders, Bandra Bandits, Falcons), each run by a manager-owner, who bid for different players. 

“We had a team that played at St. Andrew’s turf in Bandra anyway, but judging from the enthusiasm, we thought it might be fun to make things more competitive,” Santino tells us. And so they conducted try-outs, appointed owners, formed teams, got Adidas to sponsor kits and shoes, and soon, they were off. The six league teams are populated by CEOs, lawyers, doctors, Bollywood so-and-sos (actor Dino Morea, photographer Rohan Shreshta) students and entrepreneurs, and all of them have one common goal. And if they’re lucky, they’ll score more. 

You may have missed the first try-outs, but the next one starts at the end of May, so keep practicing. If you really suck, a good place to start would be the Roots Training Academy for kids that will pop up on this ground next month. You can also go watch the Roots Premier League games every Wednesday night (8 pm to 11 pm) at St. Andrew’s Turf, where Santino and Harpreet tell us that you will get a glimpse of their camaraderie first hand. “In the first week, we didn’t have enough players to start a 5 on 5 game and now we have over a 100!” 

These players also live online on a Whatsapp group where game plans are made, but so are social ones, and discussions during major matches, like the recent Arsenal-Liverpool, turn ugly in the best possible way. “Everyone’s debating and yelling at each other because we all support different teams. On match days, the language is absolutely filthy,” laughs Harpreet, wondering whether the Roots Whatsapp group needs its own referee. 

And if you like your footballers famous, the core Roots team plays on the same turf against the All Stars every Sundaya team captained by Abhishek Bachchan and colonised by actors like Ranbir Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Siddharth Malhotra. Talk about #SquadGoals. 

Bandra girls, stop by after Sunday church pretending to inquire after football, and you might be able to capture a shirtless, sweaty Ranbir Kapoor in a slo mo video.

Who’s Happy now?

Getting there: Visit www.rootspremierleague.com, email rootsfootballacademy@gmail.com. Watch all six teams compete next on March 8, 8 pm to 11 pm at St. Andrew’s Turf, St. Andrew’s School, Hill Road, Bandra (W). 

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