On the field it’s always 11 versus 11. Off it, it’s all about the sociological impact which the ‘Beautiful Game’ offers.
All India Football Federation’s efforts to contribute to “bring normalcy” in the picturesque Valley of Kashmir is being lauded as Srinagar hosted their first ever match of the Second Division League – the home match of Lonestar Kashmir FC.
And it was not just a match. The entire Valley “almost” came to a standstill as over 15,000 spectators thronged the stadium to be a part of it and cheer loud.
Former Indian National Team captain Abdul Majid, the most famous footballer to have represented from the region was all smiles when AIFF Media caught up with him.
“Football has brought a sense of nationality to the Valley after the natural calamity. Kudos to the All India Football Federation for acting as the bridge,” he says in one breath.
“It has created a pathway for the young minds and given them a dream to follow and accomplish. The sport has acted as a solace and given all hope of a better future,” he adds.
“I reiterate, all this would not have been possible without the efforts of the All India Football Federation and their dedicated commitment to the promotion and expansion of the sport.”
Zameer A Thakur, President of the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association (JKFA) dubbed the AIFF “instrumental in developing the game in the Valley.”
“It could not have been possible if the State Association did not receive any support from the AIFF. But the AIFF has always backed us and helped us in every possible manner. The results are evident in the craze sweeping the state.”
“Now we have to capitalize on this football frenzy and the initiative by the AIFF to conduct the Second Division League as perhaps one of the best decisions for the state of J&K,” Thakur informed.
LoneStar Kashmir FC’s Head Coach Hilal Parray touted the home and away match format in the Group Stages of the Second Division League as a “progressive step from the AIFF.”
“The football frenzy in Jammu & Kashmir is on an upward surge and the myriads of people who come to witness the matches are a testament of that. The format is allowing us to host matches and Kashmir is benefitting from it,” he states.
“It is a heartening sight to see the progress of football in Jammu & Kashmir. And a lot of credit has to go to the AIFF for developing the sport. Everybody is in love with the Sport. You can see kids playing football on the streets these days instead of cricket,” he goes on.
The AIFF recently also conducted an AFC C-License Course in the state of Jammu & Kashmir which was conducted under the watchful eyes of AIFF Technical Director Scott O’Donell. Not only that, the AIFF also conducted a Grassroots Course for the young populace of the state in the month of November as part of the FIFA Live Your Goals project.
“Jammu & Kashmir has always been a fascinating territory when it comes to football. There must be more talent in the state and through various Coaching Courses we aim to harness the best out of the state”, informed O’Donell to AIFF Media.
“The AIFF will conduct more courses to implement its Grassroots plan in Jammu & Kashmir in the future too,” he added.
Furthermore Lonestar Kashmir FC has offered a pathway for young footballers to pick up their cleats and represent their local club in the I-League.
“We only capitalized on the football craze in the valley and provided the kids a platform to showcase their talent,” mentioned Iftikhar Lone, owner of Lonestar Kashmir FC.
“Everybody wants to play football these days in Kashmir and it is really heartening to see not only boys, but girls indulge in football too”, he added.
Majid feels it’s high time a team from Kashmir should play in the I-League. “The national league will moreover give exposure to the budding footballers in Kashmir, injecting in them match intelligence and experience which stays imperative for development,” he opines.
“We have many talented players in the Valley, they only need to be exposed to competitive environments.”
“One can see kids wearing jerseys of their favorite Lonestar FC player in Kashmir these days. It is brilliant to see young kids emulate their heroes”, Hilal expressed as he pushed off for his practice session.
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)