11 years since the first competitive game, female rugby players have won laurels at national level
SRINAGAR: In 2004, when female rugby was introduced in Kashmir, few could predict the growth that the sports would witness in a decade. As Gulmarg hosted the 2017 National Snow Rugby Championship, the Jammu and Kashmir girls’ rugby team bagged gold.
Once considered to be a man’s game, rugby is gaining popularity among young women in Kashmir. The girls’ rugby team played their first competitive game in 2006. Eleven years later, rugby players from Kashmir has played at national and international level, surpassing all expectations.
Irtiqa Ayoub, a 2nd year undergraduate student at Nawakadal College Srinagar has been associated with the game since 2011. Being a young Rugby Development Officer of the girls’ game, she feels more girls are becoming enthusiastic about the game.
“On my first day, I was surprised to see young girls from remote parts of valley, attended the training camps. Even school girls brave all odds and come for trainings. The game no longer belongs to men only,” said Irtiqa.
A class 7th student of Oasis Public School, Zunaira is another Rugby player who represents the under 14 team girls rugby team as its captain. She has participated twice at the national level and has won brought silver for Jammu and Kashmir.
“In my team, there are players younger than me who fare well in game. My school performance has not been affected with Rugby because of my passion for the game. I want to make a career in the game,” says Zunaira.
For Iram, rugby is about aggression. “It is a contact sport, one has to touch, push, pull, tackle and scrum the opponent. What happens in field actually happens in life and all you need to know is techniques,” said Iram.
Competitive rugby in Jammu and Kashmir is organised through different events and different age groups – under 14, under 17, under 19 and senior category.
But lack of infrastructure hampers the development of game. Players are trained at Gindun sports facility in Rajbagh and at Bakshi Stadium, but the sport needs a full-fledged field along with changing rooms, washrooms and other equipments.
Irtiqa said, “Due to the absence of a proper playground for rugby, we have to get permission from different sports facilities for practice. A space is being provided to us, but it will take time.”
Mohammad Iqbal, Coach at JK Rugby Association, said, “We have from time to time asked for equipments and other things and the association has provided us that. The playground is under construction.”
Iqbal said that a space at Polo Ground has been selected for Rugby. “The JK Rugby Association has planned to host an international event next year on that ground,” he added.