Sopore: For the first time ever, people in Sopore are witnessing a football tournament under floodlights. The tournament kick-started with the inaugural match on September 2 at Charai ground, Bagh-Islam Kranshivan Colony, in main town Sopore, and attracted a large gathering of spectators. Held with much fanfare, the first match was between FC Moosa and FC United Reds. It ended with a win for FC Moosa, 1-0.
Football, the world’s most popular game, has suffered majorly in the north Kashmir town of Sopore for more than a decade now. The major reason for this, according to locals, is the district football association, which is more interested in elections than promoting the game.
“A decade ago, Sopore football teams and players used to flourish in the sport. But recent times have changed everything. Now youth as well as spectators have lost interest, because of the association members who are more interested in elections,” said Ghulam Mohd Ganai, an ex-player of the game who lives in Sopore.
“There was a time when Sopore teams used to take part in every tournament held at different locations in Kashmir. Even the government department teams used to visit Sopore for matches. Nowadays, though, neither the Sopore teams go anywhere nor the teams from other regions come here. The reason mainly is that nobody is ready to lead them,” Ganai added.
The floodlit tournament in Sopore has been started by a group of volunteers. The organisers while talking to Kashmir Reader said that such tournaments not only increase passion for the game but also inculcate a spirit of community.
Ovais Masoodi, one of the members of the organising committee, informed that the tournament consists of 32 teams and the final match is scheduled to be held in October.
“Everybody is busy these days in earning his bread, and as there are no professional soccer players, people have little time for this sport. We are a group of 15 players including a few volunteers and with an honest effort we have come up with this event under lights. We are happy that we made it possible, which seemed at first a distant dream,” Ovais said.
“We, as well as other volunteers, have put our hard-earned money and effort into this tournament, buying almost 24 lights of 50 watts LED lamps under which this tournament is in process. We could have done much better but due to lack of time as well as budget we could only afford these lamps. But we are planning much better facilities next year, InshaAllah,” Ovais said.
“Football has suffered majorly in Sopore because the members of our football administration have failed us completely. We are hopeful, though, that through this initiative we might make them realize that they need to give a serious thought to the sport,” Ovais said.
Noor Mohd, who has recently resigned as district president of the football association, after holding this post for the past five years, told Kashmir Reader that the evening tournament has been organised by some private volunteers. When asked why this step was not taken by him, he replied that there is no functioning administration at present in the association. He said elections are not taking place due to a court stay obtained by some teams and Baramulla association members.
When told that the locals as well as football players of Sopore were holding him responsible for the sorry state of the sport, he replied, “What can I do about it? Until there are elections as well as registration of teams, football in Sopore will suffer. That’s the ugly reality but we have to accept it,” Noor Mohd said.