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Girls Football in Kashmir – Morethan Afshan’s Goal

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Remember girls in news here?‘A’ for Asifa or ‘A’ for Asiya or ‘A’ for Afshan? Which way would you go? Since ours is not ‘C’ for civilized but ‘C’ for conflict zone, I dare not discuss the former two and also not ‘K’ for Kishtwar or ‘K’ for Kunan either.

Hence, I pen ‘A’ for Afshan and ‘F’ for football (though I ‘C’ for confess that my first F would go for f…..m.) and here goes the story.

Till recently, for me and many others, state’s football girl would mean only Afshan– onceportrayed as poster girl of stone pelters and now the captain of state football team, whose story of astounding transformation filled newspapers for days in the past.

 

To me, she is inherently a sportswoman, a natural Shot Putter (‘S’ for shot and not Stone and ‘P’ for putter and not Pelter) who dared to practice one Shot Put on the road only tobecome football girl of Kashmir. Or a few would know Nadiya – the first qualified female football coach of the state who defied patriarchy in the game to win many accolades. At the age of 20, Nadiya is already a star, of whose stardom I am witness to.Historically, from J&K, one RajniKumari has been the only footballer to have represented the country around 15 years back.But now girls’ football is Kashmir is not only about Afshan and Nadiya. It has many upcoming.

This February was full of football in both Jammu and Kashmir provinces, with the former hosting the men’s Maharaja Hari Singh Gold Cup football tournament at fag end of the month. In Kashmir, watching little girls play football on the astro-turf in TRC ground on February 26 was fascinating.Closing winter made Chinars around appear shivering and snow-covered mountains in the backdrop added to the chill on the ground. It was final of the 7-a-side U-12 Girls football tournament organized by the State Football Academy (SFA) of the J&K Sports Council under the aegis of J&K Football Association. The play area, time and the goal posts were tailored to the age-group.Girls would kick the ball right and left to the best of their abilities,the game looked agriculturist though. And in the end, Mallinson School team won it 4-0 against little known International School Kashmir (ISK).

The tournament was coordinated well by Qudsiya Altaf – femalecoach of State Football Academy and supported by her colleague NadiyaNighat and other SFA staff.During the presentation, all the speakers complemented the parents for supporting their girl children to play football, the game that came bring fame to many homes in future.

TanviShafi, 6th class student from ISK was excited to be part of the school football team. Her father says, “Tanvi is a born athlete already having a Green Belt in Thang Ta (a traditional martial art of Manipur in Northeast India). She chose to play football since the school authorities selected her to represent the school team. She has the capacity to represent the country in both the games and I am quite happy with her performance”. This time, Tanviin pink jersey ended up being part of the loosing team though, yet her footballer’s journey has just begun.

Similarly, Marukh another 6th standard girl from ISK looked energetic in the field. Her mother would cheer every shot she played and at the same time appeared drowned deep in the dream of Marukh playing for the country, someday. Before leaving for home, Marukh gave a smile and innocently said, “I want to become Messi.” Perhaps, she has never watched women’s football on TV to adore someone like Carli Lloyd or Lieke Martens. At this age, Marukh may not have the skill but her eyes reflect the passion to perform. She has the attitude to play football.Marukh’s mother is equally thrilled to watch her daughter challenging male bastion on the game.

J&K Football Association has been organizing girls’ football events since 2007 to encourage participation of this gender in the most popular game on the globe. Over the period of ten years, the participation has marginally increased from 8 teams in the year 2007 to 12 teams in 2018.According to S.A. Hameed, Honorary Secretary, J&K Football Association, “Girls tournaments in the state are happening for the last 10 years, but over this period, penetration of the game within the female folk is not overwhelming. Moreover, girls’ football is encouraged in private schools only that too predominantly by the schools located in Srinagar district – most particular being the famous Mallinson School. This school has a well-defined structure for various sports activities including football, in addition to the regular academic activities. But the game of football has no takers in other districts of the valley, perhaps due to cultural issues. Furthermore, Govt. schools have not contributed anything anyway to prompt girls to enjoy the game of football.” Further, S.A. Hameed says, “If the state women football team has to be competitive enough, it would require the Govt. to identify a school which would adopt all the talent across the state for training on football in addition to the regular academic work, which is a practice in all major states of the country.”

While valley girls are picking up skills in various martial arts, cricket, badminton etc., football is only at the nascent stage of development.It would take another decade to come up to the level when the state team would be in a position to pose challenge to the state teams like Manipur, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu etc.

According to Sajid Yousuf, presently Technical Director of State Football Academy who has worked as Head Coach of National Women’s football team, he would found himself uneasy for not having contributed to the development of girls’ football in his own state, despite having been Advisor for the women’s football development programme across the country. It was in this backdrop that he approached All India Football Federation for holding a girls grass-root level tournament in J&K. It was viewed that a successful run of the programme would boost other states to follow the footprints of J&K. To join hands with Sajid, came German Footballer AnjaPalusevic AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Technical Advisor and Sapna representing All India Football Federation.

Sajid is quite confident that with the support of the J&K State Sports Council and J&K Football Association, if events like this U-12 tournament happen at district levels, very soon, women’s football in the state would get transformed from recreational to competitive. Within a span of 4-5 years, the state team will be able to compete well with the mighty North-eastern teams.

AnjaPalusevicwho is part of FIFA’s Participation Project focused on the objective of increasing the number of female players to 60 million by 2026 globally in association with various confederations, says, “I look at this tournament as a funfair for young girls. The aim is to develop women’s football at the grass-root level in India and for this, the strategy to collaborate with the local schools has been adopted since schools offer safe environment for the children to participate in the game of football. Moreover, schools generally have the requisite infrastructure including the play-field which makes it quite easy to organize events like this one held on astro-turf.”

As Chief Guest, Anja was glad to see girls from this part of the world fight it out to win.Anja says, “I came to this beautiful valley in 2007 as tourist and then and there, I decided that someday I would like to contribute to this society. It was fortunately this year I got an opportunity to fulfil the promise I once made to myself. I felt that given the situation prevalent then, the girls here would not have enough avenues of recreation like dancing, aerobics etc. If football is introduced here, besides having fun, it can become a confidence builder among girls. The climatic conditions and genetic make-up here favours the game of football and if things are planned and executed well, this state can offer international women footballers in future.”

With even the most conservative countries allowing females to cheer for the game of football in the stadia, it is but natural that in future, football has to have many female takers here. The need is to embrace the game in all the schools across the state, so that girls’ football in the state does not continue to be only about Afshan’s goal!


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Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup

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Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to Indias hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.

Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitalsseven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.

Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.

 

“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.

“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”

Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.

Named man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.

“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”

Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

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Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat

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London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.

Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombes late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.

Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.

 

It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.

The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.

With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.

Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.

Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.

Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.

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Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal

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Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.

East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.

However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.

 

“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.

“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.

The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.

East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.

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