Mashoor Shereef, the man, is from the football-loving district of Malappuram. Mashoor, the professional footballer, however, was made in Chennai.
Having grown up with football all around him, in school and at the grounds in the district, Mashoor's passion for the sport is deep-rooted. In his own words, his neighbourhood breathed football and that played a role in generating a desire in him to keep playing up to his college days.
He spent time with his friends at Manchester United Kavungal, a local team that played Sevens football close to his home. There, he discussed and played the sport while coming to terms with how addictive it can really become when the passion kicks in.
At SN College, Kannur, his coach Ganesh convinced the youngster that he has the skillset to take up football as a career. He started his career with Arrows FC in the Chennai football league and went on to play for the likes of Air India (Mumbai) and United SC (Kolkata) before signing for I-League club Chennai City.
The 2017-18 season saw him play just five matches in the I-League for the Coimbatore-based team. Then came Akbar Nawas as the team's head coach and Mashoor's career reached a turning point.
He had 11 appearances to his name, which included three starts, as Chennai won the I-League in the 2018-19 season. His numbers improved again last season, as the 27-year-old played every single league game, started an AFC Cup fixture and scored six goals in all competitions.
"I didn't get chances in the first season but the arrival of Akbar Nawas and his style of play had a huge impact. I played a lot more and the coach helped me a lot. He was extremely supportive and filled me with confidence. He helped me transition myself into a defender," Mashoor, the forward-turned-defender told Goal.
Mashoor is now a fine defender, something that he never imagined he would turn out to be when he started his career. And he has his coach to thank for the transformation that has helped him to not only explore his potential but also fetch good offers in the transfer market. One such offer is that of Indian Super League (ISL) club NorthEast United, who are set to wrap up a deal to take Malappuram-born Mashoor to Guwahati.
"Everyone at Chennai City supported me. Akbar was (the reason) why I was able to play a lot more in the last two seasons. I improved a lot thanks to him. I scored twice each in the Durand Cup, I-League and the Sheikh Jamal Cup (scored a total of six goals last season).
"The turning point in my career was changing my position (to be a defender). I was able to make an impact after that and received offers from other clubs after having done well in that role. I am happy and I am confident that I can do well going forward (in the ISL)."
After three years at Chennai City, it is now time for Mashoor to move on. And he has the full support of the club.
"My contract was about to end. The management was supportive and wished the best for my future."
If everything goes according to plan, Mashoor will have completed a leap from a Sevens football club Manchester United Kavungal to the Indian Super League the next time he steps on a football pitch.