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Girl Footballers in the Making in J&K

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Girls in Jammu and Kashmir learning to play football

Inclusive India

Srinagar, December 14— “If I feel I have the ability and haven’t used my potential to that end, I will keep trying till I succeed,” renowned tennis player Sania Mirza had once said. Several girls in Jammu and Kashmir are trying to realise their potential to become football players—with the support of Real Kashmir Football Club (RKFC).

“Every player has a dream to play their sport professionally and represent India one day. I harbour the same dream,” said Sabreen Firdous, Class 12 student.

(Courtesy: South Asia Monitor Presentation – A Positive Journalism Feature supported by Frank Islam Foundation)

The story below is based on the short video documentary above:

Zara Riaz, also a Class 12 student, said: “Real Kashmir Football Club has given us a platform to play football. Perhaps now more girls will pursue football after completing their studies.”

RKFC first rose to fame in 2018 when they made waves in the Hero I-League, a national football league, by figuring in the top four. The enormous fanbase they built helped Real Kashmir to continue to work in spotting grassroots talent in a football-crazy population. This included working on a woman-exclusive programme called #ShePower which invests in young girls.

Poonam Chatoo, Program Manager, #ShePower, said: “RKFC has always tried to promote talent from within the valley. Gender equality has been something that is very close to the club’s heart and ideals. We have the raw talent available right here. Some of these girls have picked up a football for the very first time.”

Nadiya Nighat, Coach, RKFC, said: “So far they had only tried their hands at gully football or informally or sometimes in their college. Today, when they are getting professional coaching, they are more motivated to learn new things.”

She further said: “A child will want to follow a sport professionally if they are motivated enough. For that very purpose, RKFC inspires the girls to realise their full potential. In this way, we hope to get more girls to join us. We eventually dream of opening a school dedicated just for girls of all ages where they can come and play. We hope to popularise football in Kashmir.”

“They get proper discipline through Real Kashmir. We also provide uniforms, kits and refreshments, as well as functions that are facilitated through the club,” said Nighat.

Mahroukh Nazir, Class 10 student, said: “Since we enrolled in the training here, I have learned many things. I feel very proud that I got an opportunity to become part of a platform like this. I also feel that today we can compete even against boys of our age.”

Another student Sabreen Firdous said: “When other children in different states in India can make a profession out of football, then why not in Kashmir. If we don’t begin today then how will the next generation be encouraged and motivated?”

“My only message to other girls is sports are beneficial for all of us; it makes us mentally strong and fit once you focus on sport, it reduces other distractions and helps us focus on positive things. It makes us more productive. Rather than wasting time watching TV or mobile phones, it helps to put our body to good use. Come to the ground and play a game,” said Sabreen.