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Lone Star Kashmir FC – Inculcating I-league Culture!

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For football fans in Kashmir, this March 28th was another derby, albeit not as ferocious as North London or Dockers derby. Lonestar Kashmir FC played Real Kashmir FC on astroturf. Whatever the result, the game was a classic! It was I-league, after all. If Real Kashmir FC roars football, Lonestar Kashmir FC is born tough.

The name – Lonestar Kashmir FC – is not mundane. It sounds inquisitive. I imagine star would perhaps indicate the unreachable heights and Lone, signifies the surname of the owner/promoter. And among billions of constellations, a lone star assumes kingship.

In football world, we have a few more Lone Stars viz. Austin Lone Stars – a soccer club that competed in United Soccer Leagues between 1987 to 2000. Similarly, national soccer team of Liberia are nicknamed as the Lone Stars. Other than football, globally, the name ‘Lone Star’ is famous in – hospitality businesses, investment companies, transportation, film & TV, music, sports and others.

 

And here in Kashmir, popularly known as Kashmir FC, Lonestar Kashmir Football Club is a dream project of Iftikhar Ahmed Lone, its founder & Chairman. The club, first of its kind in the state, has been floated to promote football amongst the talented youth of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and help them reach the pinnacle of the game.

A successful businessman having established – Lonestar – as a global brand of Kashmiri handicrafts and jewellery in the middle-east and many European countries over the past four decades, Iftikhar returned back to the valley in 2013 only. In quest for self-actualization, Iftikhar, a college-level footballer of yesteryears, planned to do his bit to contribute to the motherland by promoting the game of football in the valley and thus, ‘Lonestar Kashmir FC’ came into being. The idea was to introduce a Kashmir-based club in the professional football map of the country.

Talking on this ambitious project, Iftikhar says, “On return from the gulf, I witnessed only cricket flourishing in the valley in the form of downtown leagues promoted by prominent businessman of the valley. In pursuance to floating the professional football club, in July 2013, I came in contact with Ex-president J&K Football Association Nazir Ahmad Khan and it was after discussions with him, Lonestar Kashmir FC was incorporated as a Private Ltd. company in July 2014 to fulfil AIFF club licensing criteria and subsequently got affiliated to the J&K Football Association. The credit of drawing the roadmap and executing it as per the procedure in vogue goes to young and dynamic Majid Yousuf.”

Presently, the club management includes the club patron Iftikhar A Lone, who is the owner and Chairman of the Club. Nazir Ahmad Khan, former President, J&K Football Association is the Executive Director, while as Tauseef A. Khan is the Overseas Manager. Former footballer Naseem-Ul-Gani works as General Manager and young hotelier Fahd Khan is the Managing Director of the Club.

Till recently, the technical team was headed by Mr. Hilal Rasool Parray – AFC PRO license coach along with a panel of assistant coaches for U-13, U-15 and U-18 teams and other youth development programmes. By resigning from the club to join his parent institution, Hilal has made way for a foreign coach into the team, albeit having contributed phenomenally in establishment of the team as a force to reckon with.

2014, year of inception, for this new-born team was all about baby steps taken by the team, but facing 2014 floods was more than baby turtles survival! It took only months for the club to emerge as one of the best teams in the state football and in 2014 the team emerged as Runners-up in State Football Championship Jammu.

It was in February 2015, the team made a mark on the national level when Lonestar Kashmir FC became the first professional football club from the state of Jammu and Kashmir to participate in a national league competition by participating in I-League (U-19) competition. The team emerged as Runners Up in I-League 2014-15 (2nd Division).

Year 2016 has been the most successful for the team during which the club achieved the feat of becoming the first team to beat the famous Mohammadan Sporting outside the state. The club also boasts of being the first team to have beaten Goan giants Dempo Sports outside the state during the same year. Besides seniors excellent performances, for the first time its U-16 team participated in the junior I-league, the legacy having been carried further in 2017 as well.

In fact, over these years, Lonestar Kashmir FC is credited of having introduced the I-league culture in the state, only carried forward by the other private professional football club Real Kashmir FC.

Talking on its vision for the club, Chairman Iftikhar says, “I aspire to see Lonestar Kashmir FC as a self-sustaining entity in the long-term, where we are able to reinvest the revenue flows into the game of football. The aim is not to run a profit making company, but a self-sustaining football club which is able to harness the talent of the state footballers. If the club performance well over the next 10-years, it shall be an achievement to have contributed to the game of football in the valley.”

With the induction of Fahd Khan as Managing Director of the club recently, Lonestar Kashmir FC is all set to be transformed into a complete professional club. On his plan of action, Fahd says, “I have recently introduced restructuring within the functioning of the team management with well-defined roles and responsibilities at all levels. I am myself handling procurement, event management and finances. Moreover, I am in-charge of the selection only to make sure that we get the best of the lot at every playing position irrespective of the background of the player. I do not entertain any influence.”

Regarding present activities of the club, Fahd says, “in addition to owning senior, U-18, U-15 and U-13 levels, the activities of the Lonestar Kashmir FC include conducting various football workshops across our State. The club is committed to promoting football as the number one game of the state and it envisions Lonestar Kashmir FC be in line with all top clubs of the country in future.”

In the process of evolution, Lonestar Kashmir FC has kept itself in the race of being one of the best professional club in the state by hiring a foreign coach namely Clebson Duarte Da Silva – Brazilian A-License coach – for a two-year term. Before joining Lonestar Kashmir FC, Clebson Duarte Da Silva was associated with Delhi United Football Club as Director. The newly appointed coach is the replacement to Head Coach Hial A. Parray who has retained his position as Head Coach, J&K Bank football team and also is on a short-term assignment of coaching Jamshedpur  FC (Juniors). For the current season, Da Silva is supported by the veteran Showkat Masoodi, who has had a phenomenal coaching career with J&K Forest FC. Till date, the results have not been favourable although.

At individual level, besides providing platform to in-service footballers like Waseem Feroz, Shanawaz etc. to play I-league, the club has helped the state identify raw talent of Aakif Reshi belonging to a remote place like Anantnag, to emerge as the fiercest striker of the state. Another local talent Dashyang Kachru groomed by the club has recently received an offer from Pune FC City. Moreover, Maharashtra born Farukh Choudhary and Asheer Akhter has found the club a launching pad of their glorious careers. While Asheer defended for Banguluru FC ‘B’ in 2017, Farukh plays as a striker with Jamshedpur FC.

For sure, the start of this season for Lonestar Kashmir FC has not been as good as the management would have expected, but the aim of the club remains to build an indigenous (all state players) I-league team, even if it comes at a cost of defeat. Winning would fascinate, but the larger goal would charm even more.

To conclude, from a bird’s eye view, the club with the span of 3-4 years has been quite successful in bringing about a drastic change in the standard of state football. And above all, Lonestar Kashmir FC has inculcated I-league culture in the state.

Views are author’s personal. Feedback 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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