As peace returns in J&K, football rolls into hearts

While the state government has often linked arrival of tourists in Kashmir with return of peace, it has been football, the number one game in the Valley, which has been silently fascinating the youth towards it.

 Some of the present football players from the Valley who made it to international level started playing the game while growing up in 1990s Kashmir when playing the game was as difficult as finding peace.

“Football is number one sport in Kashmir and youngsters are keen to take it up as a career,” Abdul Majeed Kakroo, former Indian football team captain told Deccan Herald.
Kakroo had represented the country — initially as a player and later as a captain.

Zamir Thakur, who was recently elected as president of J&K Football Association (JKFA) for the third time says that when they organised some exhibition matches between premier clubs of the country last year, the state team had evoked huge response. “Thousands of people thronged the stadiums to watch these matches. The locals love football and we need to leverage it,” he told Deccan Herald.

Thakur who took over as JKFA’s president for the first time in 2004 while violence was at its peak, is hopeful of the game getting its past glory.

“Almost a decade ago when I took over as president the JKFA activities were limited to Srinagar and a few bigger towns. But of late, football has penetrated every nook and corner of Valley and some corporate houses have also come forward to promote the game,” Thakur said.

There are some who believe that football and revival of peace in Kashmir are connected. “When you give space to youngsters to channelise their energy for positive developments they will prosper. Football is one such platform which can keep the youth away from anti-social activities,” opines Nazir Ahmad Khan, former director general of Youth Services and Sports.

Khan added, “In 1978, when Santosh Trophy was held in Kashmir for three weeks, a police officer told me that crime rate came down during those days as people were glued to stadiums to witness football.

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