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Real Kashmir: Changing the goalpost in Valley for better, ‘jaldi jaldi’

Press Trust of India

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Srinagar, Oct 10: “I learned all about life with a ball at my feet,” was Brazil legend Ronaldinho’s take on what football meant to him. And it’s a sentiment that Real Kashmir FC would probably identify with after adjusting to the valley’s “curfews and cordons” courtesy the ‘beautiful game’.

The first club from Jammu and Kashmir to qualify for the I-League is slowly building up to that dream debut on the big stage when they take on Churchill Brothers on November 6 at home turf.

“We can be the positive story coming from Kashmir. I appreciate the media for putting out the good word. Now it is for us to do all the hard work and shine, we have no other option,” says the team’s veteran mid-fielder Khalid Qayoom.

 

Qayoom and the rest of the squad enjoyed a day out in Srinagar recently, cheering on the players of an under-18 state championship match at the TRC Turf Ground recently.

The two-year old club has become the first club from the valley to qualify for the I-League by beating Delhi’s Hindustan FC 3-2 in Bengaluru.

Qayoom spoke about the many reasons why football has a “huge following” in the valley.

“Mehraj (former India player Mehrajuddin Wadoo) and Ishwaq Ahmed are the reason so many people want to become footballers. They are our role models. People see them as stars of the valley. God willing if we do better in I-League people will think the same way for us also,” he said.

The crowd at the match he was watching was rather thin, mostly outside, thanks to the weekly flea market — starting from the ground to the Hari Singh High Street.

Inside the ground, the decibel levels were significantly lower. Though not empty, the stands were mostly vacant.

“Buck up”, screamed Qayoom, joined by fellow mid-fielders Shahnawaz Bashir and Danish Farooq.

This got the spectators involved, and what followed was a goal by Maharaja Sports.

“And now you will see the goalkeeper of Maharaja Sports team bowing down in direction of the mosque and thank the lord,” whispered a spectator to his young child, pointing to the mosque next to the stadium.

And this is exactly what happened a moment later.

“This photograph should make for the sports pages in local newspapers tomorrow,” murmured another fan.

It was game on for everyone present in the ground now.

“Because of the cold there are less spectators today, otherwise in summer, and also when we will play the I-League matches here by God’s will, you will see the stadium jam-packed ,” Qayoom, an ardent Cristiano Ronaldo fan, said.

His father was also a footballer though not a professional one like Danish’s father. Qayoom said after long there is excitement in the valley.

“Right now I think of myself as the luckiest person in the valley who is getting to live his dream, he said gleefully.

Building the team up for the big challenge ahead is coach David Robertson — ex- Rangers and Aberdeen player. The Scot said it feels like home here.

Robertson is keen to improve not just players’ skills but also his Hindi and loves to flaunt the new words and phrases he has been picking up — sometimes without even asking.

“Jaldi, jaldi… I use that a lot,” he said smiling.

That said, making football a career in J&K is easier said than done. Qayoom knows all about it.

“Had things been peaceful in the valley, had the administration supported us, had the government supported us, I would have achieved this thing (making I-League cut) eight years back,” said Qayoom, who will be turning 30 next year.

Khalid rued the fact that state has literally no infrastructure for any sport.

The TRC Turf Ground, the club’s home ground for the upcoming I-League season which boasts of an imported synthetic turf, had nothing else to offer for the longest time and is now being spruced up.

The facility, however, is yet to receive clearance from officials as a venue to host I-League matches.

“The infrastructure here has only gone from bad to worse. We have the Bakshi stadium, which is now being turned into an international ground, but that could have easily been done 10 years ago. We are lagging far behind when compared to other states,” he added.

For someone who started playing football at the age of 14, Qayoom, a resident of downtown Srinagar, also spoke about the political turmoil and the “curfews and strikes” that affected his growth as a player,

“They harm your day-to-day life, not only football,” he pointed out.

“We have been facing this situation all our life now. So yes we now know the tricks, we know how to tackle curfews, we know how to escape from the cordons,” he said.

“We had to adjust somehow. Like, here also usually our practice starts at 9 in the morning, if there is a curfew or strike we come at 7 only,” he said.

But that stopped bothering Qayoom and other players of the team long back. All they want to do is shine, and shine now.

Are they in ‘jaldi, jaldi?’, you bet.


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Address reason forcing youth to take up arms: Mirwaiz to Guv

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Srinagar, Jan 18: On J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik’s statement that the government does not want to ‘kill militants but militancy’, Hurriyat (M) Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Friday said if that was the case the Governor should address the cause that forces the young boys to take up the arms.

“If it is so and they (Governor’s administration) are sincere then the government should address the cause that is leading these educated and young boys to take to arms,” Mirwaiz said while addressing the Friday Congregation at Jama Masjid here.

Calling for a political process to resolve the issue, Mirwaiz said: “…start a political process in earnest to address the sentiment behind it and resolve the dispute. It will not only save the lives of our youth but soldiers also, end militarization and the resultant atrocities that governor sahab wants Joint Hurriyat leadership to convey to him, and end the uncertainty and hostility that the region is hostage to for past 71 years.”

 

Mirwaiz also reacted to the army’s statement terming 2018 as ‘remarkable year’ because of militant killings calling the same “extremely unfortunate and inhuman.”

Mirwaiz called it strange that a well-trained armed  force meant to fight another well trained armed force was “celebrating and patting its back on killing young men and boys, some as young as 14, while some budding intellectuals and academics, and calling it remarkable.”

“…army’s boasting of the killings of militants, who are not some hard core armed guerillas and terror mongers, but sentiment driven youth forced to take to arms as a consequence of severe repression due to forcible control,” said the Mirwaiz, according to a statement.

“It is simply the intensity of their passion that drives these young boys, who are poorly trained and starved of ammunition to be able to give a real fight, in this greatly unequal battle to an armed force of a country,” Mirwaiz said.

He said the pain and loss that all of Kashmir feels at the killings of militants only adds to people’s resolve and pushes more young to join in.

“Instead of admitting this, the armed force of a country that prides itself in the history of its freedom struggle by honoring the likes of Subhash Chander Bose who raised  Indian National Army to fight the British colonial rule , sells the killing of these armed youth as a great achievement to people of India,” he said.

The chief cleric said many in Indian army have in their write ups and lectures admitted that Jammu and Kashmir is a political problem that has to be resolved as such.

“Those who are using militarization to prolong the status quo should understand that it comes with a cost and keeps increasing complexities,” said the Mirwaiz, adding that the whole world has said that there can be no military solution to the dispute.

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Drug Abuse in Kashmir: Over 300 cases registered, 482 peddlers arrested in 2018

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jan 18: Kashmir has emerged as one of the major consumers of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances with police registering over 300 cases against drug peddlers in the region during 2018.

As per the official figures of the police department, at least 312 cases were registered against the drug peddlers in the valley during the year.

Police arrested 482 persons involved in these cases. In 221 cases, the charge sheets have been filed while 91 are still being investigated.

 

Of the cases, 123 have been registered in south Kashmir followed by 108 in north and 81 in Central parts of the valley.

Police have also seized a huge quantity of contraband substances including poppy straw, fukki, brown sugar, charas, heroin, ganja, bhung putri, and opium straw from various parts of Kashmir.

As per official data, the drugs seized include poppy straw (1734.7 kg), fukki (850.61 kg), brown sugar (6.88 kg) and charas (73.27 kg), apart from other seizures of opioids.

Another disturbing trend has been the increased use of narcotic drugs including heroin, sedatives and painkillers.

“Use of these substances increases the intensity of addiction and hastens the process of complete subjugation to the narcotic dependence,” a police official said, adding that heroin is often considered as a “status symbol” among the drug addicts.

Last year, the report by Narcotics Control Bureau of Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ said J&K was among the top states in India in the cultivation of illicit crops.

The former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti too had directed police to use Public Safety Act (PSA)–a law under which a person can be detained without trial for up to two years–against those involved in the cultivation and smuggling of drugs.

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RKFC vs Shillong Lajong FC: Snow Leopards aim repeating history

Firdous Hassan

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Shillong (Meghalaya), Jan 18: Real Kashmir FC head coach David Robertson Friday said the team’s five- day stay in Shillong has helped his players to prepare themselves “mentally as well as physically” for a “bigger” game against Shillong Lajong FC.

Before resuming their home leg, RKFC will Saturday face Shillong Lajong FC, which currently is rooted to the bottom with just four points from 12 games.

Last month, RKFC played dominating football against Shillong defeating it 6:1 at Srinagar’s Astro-Turf ground.

 

Coach Robertson, in a pre-match conference on Friday, said his players understood the technicalities of the venue, Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, which is very similar to the visitor’s home turf.

“The Shillong playground is similar to that of Astro-Turf, which too has a synthetic turf.  Currently, there is good spirit within the team and players are ready for the match,” he said.

Coach Robertson said his team is confident enough for the upcoming match as all eight foreigner players are declared fit for the game.

“We are enjoying the season as we haven’t faced any defeat since March 2017 in away games. So, in tomorrow’s match, we are expecting some good results to get three points before our home matches resume,” he said.

The RKFC head coach said the pressure will be more on the host team but quickly added that Shillong Lajong’s ability to bounce back can’t be underestimated.

“It will be premature to predict about the upcoming game. There are chances that the game can be difficult for us but we have to continue our momentum to get good results tomorrow,” he said.

“There is great enthusiasm in my team and every game, irrespective of the team’s rank, is challenging for us,” Robertson added.

Shillong Lajong FC so far scored almost at a rate of a goal every match but has conceded at a rate of three goals a game, highlighting a rickety defensive line.

RKFC, on the other hand, is on an unbeaten run of eight games that has helped them accumulate 22 points after 12 rounds.

Shillong Lajong FC coach Alison Kharsyngtiew said the physical stature of RKFC players can give a tough competition to any team.

“Considering the physicality of the RKFC team, the game can be tough. But we are ready to give our best,” he said.

Asked about the reasons behind featuring at the bottom, he said his players are very young.

“This is the future of our national team and entire north-east. We have to guide them and encourage them to do better in future,” he said.

He said two of his players including defender Rakesh Pradhan and midfielder Hardy Nongbri are injured and won’t play the upcoming match.

 

 

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