Football growing in Kashmir, defying all odds | india | Hindustan Times
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Football growing in Kashmir, defying all odds

The beautiful game is defying all odds as, despite the continuing trouble in the state, it has been turning into an all consuming passion for the youth of both sexes, given that some have established themselves at the national stage.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2010 10:41 IST

The beautiful game is defying all odds as, despite the continuing trouble in the state, it has been turning into an all consuming passion for the youth of both sexes, given that some have established themselves at the national stage.

Jammu and Kashmir Football Association (JKFA), formed in 1964, claims to have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of youngsters interested in the sport in the last 10 years, with a sudden jump in the number of football teams from all the districts of the state.

"The sport, which is rightly called the traditional sport of the state, is coming back on track. In 10 years, there is a tremendous rise in the number of people interested in the sport. When we came into existence, we had just four clubs in the entire state. Now it is around 500. Young people, both men and women from all around the state are playing not just as amateurs but professionals for the state, nationals and internationals," JKFA general secretary, SA Hameed told PTI.

The oldest football club of the country, Mohun Bagan has named Ishfaq Ahmad from the state as its captain for the coming season, making him the first footballer from Jammu and Kashmir to be named skipper of any national-level club.

"I'm happy to have become the captain of Mohun Bagan. I will work hard. It is an honour to lead the oldest club of the country. It gives me internal satisfaction to see myself now among the finest footballers of the country and world who have been associated with the club," he said.

14-year-old Zuhaib, dressed in a red jersey and navy blue trousers, says that playing football is the only thing that makes him alive in the otherwise dead world he lives in.

"I come and play because it energises me. I feel alive. It is an easy escape from the regular tense world we live in. It is fun," he said, as he curled the ball into the net in the city's Polo ground.

In normal days, not hit by any strike or demonstration, the playing fields in Polo ground, Eidgah, Natipora, Islamic College and Bakhshi Stadium are stuffed with spectators and players, ranging from teenagers to old people.

Taxis and auto-rickshaws are lined up, as supporters of the teams throng the grounds to cheer the players. Shouting slogans and fluttering banners, the football grounds seem to be the liveliest places here.

Mehraj-u-din Wadoo, who has established as an India international for some time now, said football has always been the most popular sport among the youth in Kashmir and being low budget, it fits into the lives of people in the state.