Govt’s Indifference With Kashmir’s Passion

7 mins read

Itifaq lone

Despite being the most passionate game among the youth and having produced over 20 international players, the soccer in Kashmir is gradually ebbing to the official apathy.

During the summers hundreds of youth could be spotted in the playgrounds during brief sessions of evening and morning enjoying the game amid cheers and support of thousands of spectators. In Kashmir, the game is the second most sought after cricket.

But the enthusiasm and vigour on ground, the game is witnessing is gradually fading away while reaching on top. Most of the players who choose it as their career either leave the state for better pastures or give up sport owing to lack of  support from the authorities. This game is immensely lacking the infrastructure as State Sports Council has apparently dropped it from the seasonal calendars.  Presently, the JKFA is affiliated to All India Football Federation (AIFF) which is directly offering support and funds for its boost in the state. However, its support is limited to only organizing games not for the infrastructural build up.

Notwithstanding its trend of producing 20 promising international soccer players, the association even has failed to produce anymore since 2005.

Mehraj-ud-din Wadoo was the last soccer; the state has produced in 2005 and is presently playing as defender for Goa football team.

As the state has failed to retain any of such players, the JKFA, General Secretary SA Hamid justifies their move of leaving for better opportunities in other parts of the country.

“They (soccer players) are well paid in other states instead of J&K. So they shift for better opportunities.”   

Registration of Clubs

As the association is trying to boost the game at grass root level and have over 500 clubs registered in state, the procedure and criteria set for the registration seems the most discouraging factor. As per the norms of JKFA, each club for the registration needs to run out of its own expenses for at least five years. Most of the trainers are unable to sustain the costs involved for the running of clubs due to which they shut midway. While many more aspiring players are either unable to afford the fee or are unwilling to pay, resulting further into the discouragement of game at grass root. It also hampers to hone the talent.

Out of 500 registered clubs 409 soccer clubs are in Kashmir division including Kargil and Ladakh. 397 male and only 12 female soccer clubs. In these registered clubs 240 female soccer players are engaged with all from the city. In rural Kashmir, the authorities have apparently made a forbidden game for women folk following its indifference in setting up required infrastructure.  These all female clubs are based in city only.

Despite this lackadaisical attitude of authorities towards this passion of youth, there are over 10000 youth still enjoying this game with the registered clubs.

However, the JKFA, says that within the limited resources, it manages to take game to the new level and sustain its momentum and fever among passionate aspirants.  “Before JKFA, it had only 6 clubs registered which included J&K Police XI, Food and Supplies Department XI, Azam Sports club Srinagar and S.P College Srinagar. But now we have over 500 clubs, a landmark achievement,” says SA Hameed.  Female Soccer

The plight of female soccer in the valley is worse with only 12 clubs and 240 players registered, all in city. Most of the female players quit playing in the midday of their career not only due to conservative social set up but official negligence equally adds to it. The separate playing fields, instructors for female players are never provided due to which the girls are losing the passion for game with their growing age. Their career ends up at the college level as the concerned association’s have no road map to promote the professional female soccer in state.   On of the top aspiring player, Nadiya Nighat had recently embarrassed the state government after approaching the Punjab Football Association in pursuance of her career after finding no support to her dreams back home.

Male Soccer:

Although Kashmir has hundreds of male football clubs, the story remains the same as that of the female soccer in the state. Boys prefer to move outside states. At present state have its best soccer players like Ishfaq Ahmad, Mehraj-ud-din Wadoowho once represented the country, playing for other states. Wadoo who has won five gold medals, is one of the best soccer players in the state and now represents the Sports Club Goa (SCG) since last ten years to live his dream and keep the passion for the game alive. “I wanted to represent my own state, but that is not possible now nor was it possible when I left Kashmir,” Wadoo rues over appalling state of soccer in Kashmir.Soccer (1)

“Kashmir has no scope for football due to lack of infrastructure and professionalism.  Being a Kashmiri I want to come back and play for my own state, train the soccer aspirants. But I have no reason to come back as everything remains unchanged,” says Wadoo to The Legitimate over phone from Mumbai.

Another soccer player Ishfaq Ahmad who represented India at international level also rues over the worsening scenario for the football game in state.

 From last 14 years, Ahmad has been representing other states of the country. He has no plans to come back to represent his own state.

“Our state has wrong sports policy, not only in football but in every sport,” says Ishfaq Ahmad. “J&K has zero soccer infrastructures as compared to rest of the states of the country”.

Being a native of Kashmir, Ahmad wanted to play for his own state, but got disappointed by State Sports council and State government.

“I want to share my experience and talent with upcoming players of the state. But not at the cost of my own career, which will be ruined in J&K,” says Ahmad.

Like Mehraj-ud-din and Ishfaq Ahmad, most of the international soccer players of Jammu and Kashmir prefer to play for other states as the state has nothing to offer to soccer players. It needs to have all the requirements what other states of the country provide, to bring back its lost talent.


Despite the fact that football needs least investment and sports infrastructure unlike hockey and cricket, in Kashmir division it have only 2 playgrounds for more than 10000 soccer players. Both the fields at Polo ground and the TRC in Srinagar city lie in ruins. At each playing ground more than 1000 soccer players practice simultaneously notwithstanding the norms of game which poses severe risks to them.

“Mostly disputes and quarrels erupt during our daily practice session and players often fight for their place,” witnesses Syed Fakhar Imam Geelani, national soccer player.

Regretfully the State government and JKSSC have failed the soccer loving players in the state. No initiatives are being taken for infrastructure development of the sport. Rather both the fields are under the direct control of JKSSC, and JKFA is supposed to request all the time for permission and many times either the matches are delayed or not played.

“We lack the basic facilities which we require for the sport, and State sports council is not doing justice with soccer lovers,” says Hameed. He added that the state government doesn’t care and has no priority for the sports in the state.  He says that after giving more than 20 international players, JKFA has now lost hope in the state government and state sports council.

Pic/Xuhaib Maqbool
Pic/Xuhaib Maqbool

Soccer Instructors and Coaches

The state sports council has not appointed a single coach for soccer in the whole state. Presently the trainers are former football players who are not paid by Council and have volunteered to train the players.

For more than 10000 aspiring players, state has only ten non official coaches which include 4 instructors for Jammu division and six for Kashmir division.

“JKSSC doesn’t show any interest towards soccer. The Sports Council has failed to appoint a single coach in the whole state,” says Hameed. “Mostly we request our senior players to train the younger ones”.


Insufficient funding for the sport is another bottleneck. Every year the Council releases only rupees 6, 52000 for all annual activities against the requirement of Rs 12 lakhs.

There were no funds released for Ganderbal, Shopian, Kishtwar and Kulgam districts in 2015-16.  Association decry’s that Council is not doing justice with them and that they are made to manage annual sport events on their own expenses.  “We always manage somehow either by delaying the match or shortening its time limit,’’ says JKFA General Secretary

Football In Kashmir

Football in Kashmir dates back to early 19-th century when it was reportedly introduced by Tyndale Biscoe, the veteran educationist. Football was a popular game in late 1960 and 70’s and soccer games were played in SP College ground before the construction of Bakshi Stadium and Polo Ground. At that time only few clubs were registered in the Valley. The game suffered a huge set back during 1990’s due to militancy when most of the playgrounds were under forces occupation and restriction over the movement of people during early morning and late evening hours.

 International Players From State

JKFA has produced 21 international male soccer players.

  1. Mohammad Yousaf Dar, represented India in 1977-78 and is the first football player of the state who represented the country.
  2. Bashir Ahmad Beigh represented in 1977 and was followed by Dr. Nirmolak Singh in the same year.
  3. Mohammad Shafi Nari represented India in 1977.
  4. Rameesh Chander represented India team in 1980. Followed by Abdul Majid Kakroo, who represented the country in 1981.
  5. Zahoor Ahmad Lone and Mohammad Latif Bhat both played for India in 1982.
  6. Mohammad Syed in Asia youth soccer championship at Seoul in 1983.
  7. Aslam Parvez Dar in 1985.
  8. Khursheed Ahmad Baba in 1986 in USSR.
  9. In 1990 Kamal Jeet Singh represented Indian football team.
  10. Zahoor Ahmad Haroon in 1991.
  11. Ranjeet Singh represented India in Asian School Football Championship in 1995 and was followed by Amandeep Singh to play the same championship in 1998 as captain of India team.
  12. Riyaz Ahmad Wani played at international level in 1996 and earned 3rd place in the championship.
  13. Arun Malhotra played for India in 2002-03 and now represents East Bengal Kolkata.
  14. Johny Kumar Sharma represented India Sub-Junior team in 2004.
  15. Ishfaq Ahmad played twice in 2004 and 2006 and now represents Kolkata.
  16. Mehraj-ud-din Wadoo played in the victorious India Team in 2005. He played AFC cup in 2006 and represented Goa. Currently Wadoo plays for Goa.

Jammu and Kashmir football team remained six times quarter final qualifiers in National Santosh trophy.

The story first appeared in print edition of May 4.  

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