No one can spot Ashraf except as foot ball player, team manager, photographer, actor, artist, or organizer. He is really a multifaceted guy. After a sabbatical stint, confronting cancer, he is back to the centre court of activities.
Ashraf, with his pet name name Bava could never be spotted either without a camera or a football. These are indelible parts of his persona. This Malappuram guy is known among footballers, his fans, and photographers for decades. It was Ashraf alias Bava who organized Super Studio, Malappuram.
Super Studio,Malappuram is the kings of sevens football. For sometime, he had a stint as the spian too. But it is one year since he kept himself indoors far away from the busy schedules. What happened to Ashraf?. This refrain is answered with a one liner, Cancer also kissed the dust.
The friend of self-made football
He chews the cud. Half a century back in the 1970s this cherubic boy frequented the Kottappadi Govt high school in Malappuram carrying a bundle of books. More than the books, he was noted for kicking everything along the way, even a rag of the thrown out paper.
"Like many, I too brandished my legs aimlessly playing imaginary football without any specific position assigned. I used to carry to school a football made of dried banana leaves and waste from barber shop. I used to hide it under my waist or in the book bundle. But the major defect of this ball was it never gets rebounded. Then tennis balls and stitched footballs came to rescue."
"It was my teacher Gopi who discovered the player in me. Those were the times of ball dearth. Football wars were fought in the physical training shed behind the school."
"I was there in the paddy field, ground,river bank and every where there was football, and among the return shooters behind the goal posts when seniors played. I grew up, so the player too. Drawing classes were another interesting pastime."
"It was a miracle that I was one among the SSLC winners. I was born to teacher parents Abdul Kareem Peruvankuzhi and Kahdeeja Kuttasseri.In order to make socks, I started cutting papa's shirts resulting in getting beaten.To make matters worse I decided not to go to college. Parents were really upset to hear this. They expelled me from home."
The birth of Super Studio
At this critical juncture, a studio namely Malappuram Super Studio was started with my friends micro Azeez and Nananth Kareem, with Rs. 30,000/- granted by the Malappuram municipality. Those were the days of black and white photos. It was the humble beginning of the now famous Malappuram Super Studio.
Since I was thrown out from family I slept in the studio itself. Maliyammkkarathi hotel in Kottappady helped me keep hunger away. . Let me thankfully remember she used to provide me food three times. She was generous and never counted on my payments. Money or no money she provided food as she would feed her son.
I got enrolled as a player in Malappuram soccer club based on my performance in school sub junior, junior and senior teams. I played as a defender in famous tournaments like Chacola and Scissors. In 1980 an intense passion to establish my own club reached its crescendo. This passion led to the creation of the Malappuram Super Studio.
Among the forerunners of the club were Hameed Thangal, Saleem Varangode, Goal keeper Sidheek, Majeed, Ramesh and Noushad. and the dare devilish Ashraf Bava. They frequented sevens grounds barefooted. This is how the four decade journey from success to success started. Among the first to join Superstudio were Thambi Saidali, Perinthalmanna Saidali, Babu Saleem, Nowshad, Titanium Hameed,Anwer, Surendran and Thambi Basheer. Masthan Beeran Kutty was the manager. Super Ashraf was the back bone of defense. Trophies flowed into the shelves of Super Studio. it was success begetting success.
We won famous tournaments like Kunji Moyin Haji Sevens Tournament, Valapatanam, Rovers Manjeri, Khader Ali, Perinthalmanna, Nanutty Memorial, Koothuparambu, Mahi Library Tournament, Mummy Haji,Thirur, and Samad Memorial Thiurangadi etc. Talented forwards got repulsed from the defense of Ahsraf and he earned him many pet names like, Kurikkal,Thangal, Knife, and Young Bull. It was the gallery who decorated Ashraf with these names. Sometimes matches ended in physical skirmishes or serious assaults. But who knows Ashraf dared not venture into skirmish. Those were the days when national and international players like I.M. Vijayan, V.P. Sathian,U. Sharaf Ali,Jo Paul Ancheri, C.V Pappachan, C. Jabir, Azeez Malappuram, Kurukesh Mathew and Habeeb Rahman played either as team mates or as rivals. Ashraf played a major role in introducing I.M viajayn to Malappuram sevens football. The thin guy from Thrissur used to sit in my lap when the jeep was packed with passengers. More awesome was the artist in the centre forward than the the Rafi like singer. Rafi drew life like portraits of Pele and I.M. Vijayan with simple charcoal. But destiny has something different in store for the singer. Ashraf's memory is still green with the picture of the passionate aficionado fan of Rafi growing into Shahbaz Aman.
The 'All in All',Super Ashraf
One can summarize his life for the last three decades. It is in the day time he carries a camera always, in the evening it is football. He was actively photographing events both off ground and on ground. While it is 'chin up,''chin down', 'smile please' were the usual words he would utter as a photographer, on the ground he confronted rivals with tackling and heading. The bearded defender in the defence of Super Studio always made goose bumps run on the spectator. He had been the super star of Super Studio till 2002. Afterwards, he switched on to organizing football matches.
Even now he is an active presence in veteran sevens tournaments. Football world recognized his talents through many awards. He decorates many positions like state secretary of sevens football association and secretary of sevens football managers association and as an office bearer of old players of Malappuram soccer club. It does not end there. He decorates many positions of photography association. He is a black belt holder in karate. other areas of interests are books,oration and travels.
The thespian in him came out in the short films like lucifer's cronies (Ibleesinte Changathimar), banks where friendship blossoms (Sneham Pookkunna Theeram) and Lord's khazana. He donned the character role in critically acclaimed and national award winning film Sudani from Nigeria. This role earned much appreciation and applause from the cinegoers.The director of the film, Zakaria, asked him not to act but live the life of the manager of the football team. Many of his football tournaments ended in financial fiasco. The crisis made him to work in Max studio, Manjeri. But he still owns Super Studio, Malappuram. Cyber age digital photography posed no issues to him, he is quite at ease and peace with it. His only son Asif runs Superstudio now.
Cancer too conceded- Bavakka is super
An unexpected pest entered his life a year back. The pestering back pain developed leading to lose the strengh of his legs. Fingers could not be folded. The diagnsosis told, vertebras of the spinal chord are displaced. Docotrs advised surgery. Fluid test revealed a shocking message. It was cancer. A terrible disese has started attacking this defender. But he was not afraid, confused or floored. His kith and kin in unison manifested themselves his own dialogue in the film to Sudu,' relax, dont worry, we with you'. Cancer too conceded defeated after the six courses of treatment in Aster MIMS , Calicut. Why to worry when many even unknown people from abroad dialling to enquire about health. He showed red card to cancer.
During the days of disease and home confinement, he retreived the old passion of drawing. He studied arrylic under the inspiration of Manu Kallikkad. He drew the pictures of Higuita, I.M Vijayan, scissor cuts, Kunnummal city and stay safe. He acknlowleges, he is indebted to many in this life spanning 62 years. Now he is leading a peaceful life in Soccer house, Chammankadavu on the banks of Kadalundi river, with wife Jasmine, son Asif, daughters Jumana, Julaina and daughter in law Angel Parveen.
His father in law, Thorappa Bappu who passed away recently, is a famous homoeopath and founder of soccer club. The shelf is full of trophies, cups and jersies. But he lost some invaluables in the flood happened in Kerala last year.
Bavakka is back on his bike with spectacles and hat after an interval. Photography, drawing, acting and football will always be there with him integrally and indelibly. His fans are waiting him to appear on the ground, on the screen and in the gallery.
(This narrative earlier published in Varadhya Madhyamam on September 20, 2020 is translated by Sibahathulla Sakib