An ace Kashmiri soccer player, who has represented the country for 14 years, has threatened to quit a government job that tasked him with teaching singing and dancing to school students, saying it was akin to “asking an aeronautical engineer to assemble a bicycle”.
Ishfaq Ahmad, 33, was given the job of a physical education teacher in December as recognition of his contribution as a sportsperson.
He was recently asked to prepare schools kids for cultural activities for the upcoming Republic Day celebrations.
“I am a footballer and they want me to teach cultural activities to school kids and prepare them for Rouf (a traditional Kashmiri dance form)…it is like asking an aeronautical engineer to assemble a cycle,” Ahmad told HT.
“It is an insult that the state doesn’t recognise the talent of its youth.”
Phone calls to sports minister Imran Raza Ansari sent unanswered. Secretary of the state sports council, Hilal Ahmad Parray, said he would look into the issue of adjusting Ahmad at a place where he would be able to coach youngsters.
Ahmad is among a handful of Kashmiri youth who have succeeded in sports in the troubled state where years of militancy and unrest have often cut short promising careers.
Ahmad has been playing in pre-Olympic and World Cup qualifying rounds for India since 2004 when his debut goal gave India a win against Turkmenistan.
He has captained for four years one of the most prestigious football clubs of the country Mohun Bagan, given the title of the National Club of India by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
He has also played for all the other top clubs of India such as Dempo, Salgaocar, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting with varying degrees of success and turned out in the Asian Champions League club championship seven times since 2005.
He is also the only player from Jammu and Kashmir to win the national player in 2003.
Ahmad said he joined the job on his family’s insistence.
“…The state could have provided me with a decent job where I would play football as well as train budding youngsters in football… like a coach in the state sports council or training forest department team. But I feel our state representatives have no sense to honour the heroes of the state,” he said.
“I can do a good job of coaching football enthusiasts in clubs outside the state and earn good money. But then my dream of doing something for the state won’t be fulfilled,” he said.
The soccer player said he got so much respect from for his sporting capabilities from other state governments only to be “humiliated” by his own government.
“After playing for so many years, I thought that I will be a role model for the youth of my state. But when they will see me in this position how will they join sports,” Ahmad added.