The Bold Voice of J&K

Football, a passionate game in Kashmir

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MOHAMMAD HANIEF

Football is a game that millions of people around the world play and love. It can be called a universal game because every small and big nation plays it. Moreover, it’s a great relaxer, stress reliever, teacher of discipline and teamwork. Apart from that, it keeps the body and mind fit and healthy. It’s a team game that makes it a more enjoyable game as it teaches people the importance of sportsmanship, leadership, and unity.
The football game is gaining popularity among messes in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir division. The emergence of some football players on national scene is a testimony to this fact.
The popularity of football in Kashmir Valley is witness to the passion and love of sports lovers. Despite all the challenges they face, people have embraced football and made it a part of their culture. Historically, Football has remained a popular game in Kashmir. That is the key reason, why the football matches draws huge audiences to the stands.

The history of football can be traced back to the ancient times of the Greeks. Everyone knows that the Greeks were great sportsmen and have invented many games.
Football happens to one of them. A similar game like football is played in many countries but the latest version of football that we knew originates in England. Likewise, England formulated the first rule of the game. From that day onwards the football has progressed in ways we can’t imagine.
It was the autumn of 1891 when Mr Biscoe Tyndale returned from Bombay with Mrs. Tyndale Biscoe that amongst their luggage they brought a ‘Football’ the first thing boys of mission school had seen with great pleasure. When the Principal Tyndale Biscoe arrived at school at the set time and held up this football in the students view, it was expected it would evoke enthusiasm among students, but ‘alas’ it did not arose any interest or pleasure or enthusiasm amongst the students.
Biscoe introduced the game to his students and was successful in organising the first ever football match in Srinagar. The sports gained popularity in the region and soon football clubs were made and tournaments were organised across the Valley.
Back in the day when the maharajas ruled Kashmir, football was a source of entertainment for the people after toiling all day at work. The accessibility of the game made it popular among the masses-all that was needed was a ball that they could chase in many fields.
It was all building up to what is considered the golden period of football in the Valley. Between 1976 and 1988, Kashmir hosted Junior and Senior Nationals, the All India University Championship, and tournaments for the civil services and the police, in addition to the Federation Cup.
But, in recent years, football has become even more popular in the valley. With the emergence of professional football clubs, such as Real Kashmir FC, the profile of the sport in the region has risen and Real Kashmir FC has become a household name in Kashmir.
From their warm hospitality to their passion for football, the only thing cold about Jammu and Kashmir is its winters. When you see youngsters practicing their skills tirelessly on cold mornings, you will warm up to the idea that there’s a Kashmir that was hiding in the fog until now. There are no off-sides when it comes to football in Kashmir. It traverses all ideologies, communities, opinions and the shadows of political history. The only lines drawn here are on a green field pitching 11 versus 11 over a common goal.
To become a successful performer in a competitive field like football, players not only need to become players with exceptional skill but to understand football at its core. They have to develop tactical abilities and be highly dedicated to the game, giving an extensive amount of time to practice in order to improve gameplay and to understand the physiological requirements of the professional level of the sport. In the backdrop of rising popularity of football in the Valley and players’ interest in sweating out the game, the local authorities of Jammu and Kashmir are focusing on improving soccer facilities in the union territory.
Valley has had a craze for football since the 90s. There were some top football teams at the time, like JK Bank, JK Police, and SRTC. They would always be supported by a huge crowd during their matches.
Before Kakroo, players such as Mohammed Yousuf Dar and Farooq Ahmad Bhat had drawn a lot of attention from the football fraternity. Teams such as the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC, later just RTC) and Jammu and Kashmir Bank (J&K Bank) were considered the nursery of Kashmiri football, and enjoyed a lot of success in those days, despite the lack of anything in the way of quality infrastructure.
Since I-League matches are played in Srinagar, many talented youngsters from Kashmir Valley are coming forward and participating in I-League matches, which is a great thing. Such platforms like I-League where local players are getting opportunities to play with foreign players are helping in bringing back the craze of football among the youth of Kashmir Valley.
Breaking out the decades-old taboo, Kashmiri girls are now exploring the prospects of choosing football as a career. Just a few years back, there were no platforms for Kashmiri girls to learn and play football but with some positive change in the Kashmir valley, new football clubs are being opened to harness the raw talent of the young girl footballers.
But footballers from other parts of the world believe that there is a lot more to be done for football in Kashmir. There is a need to build more professional training centers here and invite players from outside to play here so that players from this region can learn and play together to enhance their skills in the game.
The union territory has a strong connection to football having produced many legendary soccer players like Abdul Majeed Kakroo, Mehraj ud Din Wadoo, Ishfaq Ahmed in the past. The improved level of facilities is a step towards inspiring more youths to join football matches and kick it off for a better future in the Valley. Football is an important game from the point of view of the spectator as well as the player. This 90 minutes game is full of excitement and thrill. Moreover, it keeps the player mentally and physically healthy, and disciplined. And this ninety-minute game tests their sportsmanship, patience, and tolerance.
The popularity of football in Kashmir Valley is witness to the passion and love of sports lovers. Despite all the challenges they face, people have embraced football and made it a part of their culture.

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