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American football-Indian's NFL dream scripted in Hollywood

By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A year ago, Roshan Lobo thought American football and rugby were virtually identical but through a twist of fate and inspiration from two Adam Sandler movies, the 21-year-old Indian is hoping to one day show off his skills in the NFL.

The commerce graduate from Bangalore had always maintained an interest in a number of sports, including cricket and shooting, but American football never featured on that list.

"I was also interested in rifle shooting but it was too expensive to pay for the bullets and other equipment," Lobo told Reuters in an interview.

Lobo's interest in American football was piqued after watching the Sandler comedies 'The Waterboy' and 'The Longest Yard', and after playing rugby in his youth, he was quickly able to adapt to the demands of his new pastime.

"I used to think American football was the same as rugby but then I came to know that it was a completely different game," he said by phone from Alabama.

"I used to play rugby before, so I liked contact sports. Both the Sandler movies are so funny. They inspired me a lot."

So when the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) was launched last year with five local teams, two from Sri Lanka and one from Pakistan, Lobo had little difficulty in deciding to commit his future to American football.

"I heard about EFLI from my rugby coach. He was asked to coach the Bangalore team and that's how I came to know about it," he said.

"It was something I wanted to play but unfortunately it was not played in India before. It looked entertaining also. So once it came to India I thought 'who wouldn't want to play it?'"

The running back finished as the most valuable player after the inaugural season, played entirely in Colombo, but he may not have received such acclaim had luck not intervened.

LUCKY BREAK

The Bangalore Warhawks started the season with three players in the running back position while Lobo was on the defense.

"Two of them got government jobs and the third didn't get his passport sorted in time (to travel to Sri Lanka)," Lobo said.

"The team didn't have an option and my coach asked me to play running back. I said 'okay'."

Hailing from a humble background, the financial rewards that came with playing in the EFLI also helped Lobo pursue his dream of a career in the sport.

"It's a good job. It lets you do something you love and also pays you for it. It's something good that has happened in my life," he said.

On Friday, Lobo will take to the field in Alabama at a U.S. scout bowl where he will compete against 70 collegiate players and free agents from around the world.

obo admits he is prepared to go through the pain barrier to taste success and hoped his story could popularize the sport back in his cricket-mad homeland.

"I haven't played football with professionals and the game is faster than what I have played in India," he said. "I am starting to get a hang of it and hopefully I will have a good game.

"Once I started playing football, it was a dream to play in the NFL someday. For now, I am ready to give it two more years and see how it goes.

"If nothing happens in two years, I have to think about another career else it might be too late for me.

"In the meantime, I will maybe join a (professional) course or something to keep myself occupied."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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