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Footballer Entrepreneurs – Opportunities beyond Government Jobs

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In Harry and Lucy Concluded (1825) Maria Edgeworth has written “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy”. The sentence perhaps sets the two extremes and does not signify sports only, but to me, it means sports.

And sportsmen have issues – whether to play for work or work and play? Do we have to play only, do we have to play for work only or do we have to play first and then work? Or do we work and play for life? What kind of work – Government job, bank job or simply out? Since this piece is for KICK, better focus on football buddy!

It goes without saying that football is the most popular sport in J&K. In recent times, it has received further impetus with the establishment of State Football Academies across all 22 districts of the state. Furthermore, private participation in the form of professional football clubs like Real Kashmir FC, Lone Star FC etc. has further intensified the curiosity to play this fashionable game.

 

As per the figures provided by J&K Football Association, currently there are around 700 clubs registered with J&K Football Association, who have participated in the recent Mufti Syed Memorial Tournament across 22 districts of the state. Considering the composition of every team of 20 players, the total number of players registered with the association works out to 14000.

Further, State Football academy has selected around 5500 (youth professional) across the state under Mission 22 of the J&K State Sports council aimed at mass participation at grass-root level. Besides this, there are around 14 I-league teams playing under different categories (U-13, U-15, U-18 and senior 2nddivision) totalling around 400 players taught and trained to compete at the national level. Thus, at present, around 20000 players under different age groups are actively associated with the game of football. This figure does not include the unregistered teams/clubs, which must be at least equal to the number of registered teams.

The professional clubs attract talented youth in the age-group of 15 to 20 years – the prime age for attaining basic education. Passionate about the game, the players tend to give up the academic education or give second preference to it, only to regret in the long run. Legendary Abdul MajeedKakroo, who did not have the chance to attain basic education says,  “Had I been well-educated, today AIFF would have been headed by Kakroo.”. Although, both his children were exceptionally talented footballers, with both having represented the state at junior level, Majeed preferred to impart education to both the children instead of making them footballers. Today, Majeed is proud to father his doctor daughter (would be) and engineer son.

It is a fact that every footballers’ parent is not like Majeed who is well aware of miseries of being a sportsman. Imagine these footballers 10-years down the line. What do they do? Perhaps, a few would have represented the country but most would have joined the mainstream, striving to make a living. And for some, a major injury would have made end-of-the-career in a split second.

For many footballers who, for one reason or the other, could not attain enough education to become eligible or even get a Government job, football remains a hope for employment for many departmental team players. It is a well-known fact that Government jobs are preferred for less accountability and illegitimate money. However, a few are lucky to get it.

In 1960s, teams like SRTC, Food and Supplies and J&K Police would invite educated football talent to join their departmental team to ultimately end up as employees of the departments. According to  AbdulMajeedKakroo, around 18 departmental teams including J&K Police, SRTC, Food & Supplies, J&K Forest, J&K Agro, Water Works Deptt, Fire Services Deptt., Posts &Telgraphs, Muncipal Corporation, Food Corporation of India, AG’s Office, Fire Services, R&B, J&K Bank etc. must have employed around 900-1000 footballers over the period from 1960 to 1989. But with the onset of militancy in 1989, the scenario changed and all the departmental teams were virtually wound up. 2000 onwards, it is only J&K Bank which has held a comprehensive employment policy for footballers. Besides, J&K Police has been engaging players on and off under different categories.

Talking on the issue, President J&K Football Association Zameer A. Thakur says, “Skill of football used to be a major reason of employment for many state players in the past. However, with the passage of time, the organizational setup, rules and regulations, financials, establishment setup etc. have changed altogether. Moreover, the thrust of the Government has shifted from being the employer to imparting skills to the youth so that they establish their own enterprises. In fact, the attitude of the present day players has witnessed a drastic shift. Today, a professional footballer of the state wants to play I-league, ISL and ultimately represent the country. He is least bothered about being employed by his owner. If good packages are given to the professional players, they would accumulate ample money during the peak of their careers, which would ultimately become the equity for their future enterprises. For this, big business houses like Tramboos, Chayas etc. which spend lakhs of rupees on advertisement of their products on national newspapers, have to come forward to adopt the football team with attractive packages. This would not only help in advertising their brands but would also help in uplifting the youth of the state”.

While there are many stories of struggle in the football arena – the most prominent being the plight of 14 talented footballers of the J&K Forest team who joined the team in 2002 on contractual basis. Out of these, 9 players have been struggling for more than 15 years to get absorbed in the department and the struggle, unfortunately, continues. Yet, a few have been wise enough to be entrepreneurial.

Zubair (name changed) who started his professional football career in 2002 with one of the most famous departmental teams of the state, is presently running a successful retail and wholesale sports good business.  Realising that waiting for the Government to issue permanent order was wastage of time, Zubair started his own venture under the name and style M/s Valley Star Sports in 2010. With the help of his father, he infused around 40% equity into the business and sourced 60% debt from J&K Bank. With a span of 7 years, the annual turnover of his firm has increased from 4 lakhs to 17 lakhs in the year 2017. Despite the floods of 2014 and the ongoing episodes of disturbance, Zubair has established himself as a major supplier of sports items to many departments, schools, colleges etc. Besides earning annual net profit of around Rs. 4 lakhs, he is satisfied to have established a business centre which he would be in a position to transfer to his progeny in future. He is no more inclined to have a Government job.

Similarly, Faisal Hameed a talented basketball player who represented the state in Senior National in 1985-86 held in Trivandrum and Jamshedpur the next year, was enterprising enough to start the most famous sports goods outlet of the valley Olympic Sports Centre in 1989 with an initial investment of Rs. 75,000/-. Son of the famous S.A. Hameed (Honorary Secretary, J&K Football Association), Faisal was introduced to the leading dealers of the country by his father who taught him the tricks of the trade. Within a span of 30 years, Faisal has grown his business multi-fold and this year, the turnover has reached around Rs. 1.50 crore. Olympic Sports Centre is an authorised supplier to J&K Sports Council, J&K Police and all major departments. On manufacturing units within the state, Faisal says, “Given skill labour and proper road connectivity which would ensure timely delivery of raw material, Kashmir valley has the potential to become the hub of Sports Goods manufacturing industry. We have the capacity to absorb all the production with the state and there is no need to source the goods from outside the state. If the Government is able to create conducive investment atmosphere by offering incentives in manufacturing, we can compete with the manufacturers of Jalandhar, Meerut and Delhi.”

To take an example from outside the state, one AshuKohli started JUST Sports in 1990 in a single room with one stitching machine purchased for Rs. 10,000/-, has established himself as the leading sports kits manufacturer of the country competing with brands like Nike, Adidas etc. Within a span of 27 years, Just Sports has become a major supplier to all Ranji Trophy teams, an authorised supplier of Sports Authority of India etc. JUST Sports not only caters to the local market, but has also reached the overseas markets supplying cricket and hockey kits to USA, UK and other countries. At present, JUST Sports employs around 70-80 workers sourcing raw material from China, Taiwan etc. Ashu is proud to say, “This country has tremendous potential to absorb everything manufactured within the country and the youth should complement the GoI initiative of ‘Make in India’. If the youth of J&K are trained in the manufacturing business, sky is the limit for their growth.”

Going by the statistics above, 20000 players means 20000 football kits to sell and that’s a big opportunity to invest in manufacturing sports goods in the state. It is for the stakeholders to design the ways and means to attain self-sufficiency in production – the market is already present. While all the 20000 would surely not become great footballers, many have the potential to float football manufacturing enterprises and become employers. Project Development, training and funding – a major hitch to start a venture, could be arranged by J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute by designing a suitable funding scheme at concessional rate of interest. Other than that, the State Industrial Policy 2016 has lot to offer, with Sports Goods being a thrust industry. Given dedication, perseverance and thirst to grow, success would surely follow.

To sum up, I quote the most famous youth icon of the state, “I have very strong reasons to support youth taking up entrepreneurship and self-employment. It gives a man complete freedom. Government service, in turn, is freedom of stomach only. It is slavery of mind, eyes, tongue, hands and feet”.


 

 

Views expressed are author’s own. Can be reached at [email protected]


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Dhoni ‘unavailable’ for West Indies tour, takes two-month break to serve his regiment

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New Delhi: The mystery surrounding Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his future has been solved for now. The former India skipper has decided to take a two-month break and serve his army regiment after a gruelling India Premier League season and the 2019 World Cup.

It is no secret that Dhoni had already made himself unavailable for the tour of West Indies, but he has now informed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that he is joining the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army.

Speaking to IANS, sources in the know of developments said that the former India skipper has informed the BCCI of his plans and that this was in no way to be considered a move towards retirement.

 

“He has had a long season where he played the IPL with a sore back and then also played in the World Cup with an injury and he felt that it was important to take a break and come back fresh. With the selectors set to meet in Mumbai on Sunday to pick the squad for the Windies series, he has informed the board that he will be serving his army regiment for the next two months. This has nothing to do with retirement,” the source said.

Dhoni is an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army. Earlier skipper Virat Kohli had made it clear that the team management hadn`t heard anything from Dhoni on his future. But the former skipper has now sent across the message to all concerned.

In fact, while rumours were doing the rounds that Dhoni would have called it quits after the World Cup, those close to him had made it clear that it was unlikely. With Dhoni now informing the board of the sabbatical, there is clearly more to come when it comes to Dhoni serving the national team.

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ICC’s suspension of Zimbabwe Board is a wake-up call for PCB

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Islamabad: THE suspension of the Zimbabwe Cricket Board by the ICC due to government’s interference is a wake-up call for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) who need to exclude several clauses from its constitution which allow the federal government and the prime minister as its patron to intervene in the PCB affairs.

The PCB’s constitution was approved in 2014 during ex-chairman Najam Sethi’s tenure while earlier some amendments were also made by another former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf. Though the media at the time had raised concern over those clauses which allowed government’s interference in the PCB affairs, Zaka had dispelled such concerns and had claimed that the ICC had approved the constitution.

However, the recent decision of the ICC to suspend the Zimbabwe Cricket Board after the Zimbabwe government had dissolved their board should be an eye opener for the PCB as well as other boards who encourage such interference from the government.

 

In the PCB’s constitution, one of the major clauses (number 45) says: “The Federal Government may, if it deemed necessary and expedient, make amendment in this constitution by way of repeal, substitution, omission, modification or addition of any provision thereof.”

In yet another clause (3), the patron may, from time to time, give to the Board general policy directions and the Board shall implement the same.”Moreover, the patron, who has not been elected by any forum of the PCB but automatically gets this position for being the prime minister of the country, also has the power to remove the PCB chairman and also to dissolve the most supreme body of the PCB — the Board of Governors — under special circumstances mentioned in the PCB constitution.

Furthermore, two members of the Board of Governors are to be nominated by the patron, too, and traditionally, one of them is elected as the PCB chairman.

t may be mentioned here that the ICC in the past has suspended the memberships of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and Nepal, prior to the Zimbabwe suspension for the same reasons of government’s interferences. However, the ICC chose to look the other way when the Indian Supreme Court formed the famous Lodha Commission to look into the BCCI affairs and to investigate the charges of corruptions in the IPL edition held in 2013.Though then BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke had verbally asked then ICC chief executive Dav Richardson to write a letter to BCCI, showing concern over government’s interference after the formation of the Lodha Commission, Richardson refrained from it and insisted that BCCI should first write a letter to the world cricket governing body apprising it of the situation and asking for action.

Shirke had alleged that ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, who was also president of BCCI in 2013, had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court, highlighting the threat of the ICC suspension. However, he is reluctant to take any action as ICC chairman at the moment.

The PCB, which is pondering further amendments in the existing constitution to incorporate some clauses to change the currentt domestic cricket set up, will be well advised to revisit the clauses that allow govt interference in order to avoid any threat of the ICC’s action in the future.

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Morgan troubled by WC win, says not ‘fair to have result like that’

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London: England captain Eoin Morgan admitted that he is troubled with the way the 2019 World Cup ended. England and New Zealand played out a match that was tied twice — first in regular play and then in the Super Over — and Morgan`s side won the title on the basis of their superior tally of boundaries in the match.

“I dont think its fair to have a result like that when theres very little between the sides," Morgan told The Times. "I dont think there was one moment that you could say: That actually cost the game there. It was quite balanced.”

In what has since been described as the greatest World Cup final ever and even the greatest ODI match ever played, the method of finding the winner has come under almost universal criticism and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was hailed for the way he handled the defeat. Morgan is normally known for his clear-headed approach and has been credited with leading a sea change in England`s attitude towards the white ball cricket but even he admitted that he is struggling to make sense of what happened in the final.

 

“Im black and white. Im normally going: I know. I was there, that happened. (But) I cant stick my finger on where the game was won and lost. Im not sure winning it makes it any easier. It would be more difficult to lose, of course,” he said.

“Theres no defining moment that youd say: Yes, we thoroughly deserved it. It`s just been crazy.”

The match ebbed and flowed and there were times when one side looked as likely to win the game as the other. Morgan said that he has been speaking to Williamson, with whom he has played on a number of occasions in the Indian Premier League, about the game.

“I spoke to Kane over the last couple of days on numerous occasions and none of us has come up with a rational explanation as to the various times we gave them the game and they gave it back to us. Like me, he can`t get his head around everything,” he said.

The 32-year-old, however, agreed that the final was probably the greatest ever cricket match. “By a long way. I cant think of a game thats come close. Madness. I should be cheery about it, shouldn`t I?” he said.

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