While sitting with my mentor-cum-friend Fayaz Ahmad late one night discussing about Real Kashmir FC’s brilliant performance, I began to ponder on how this beautiful game of football came to Kashmir. Being a student of history, I was overcome by the curiosity to excavate the history of this game in Kashmir. I came upon a book titled ‘Kashmir in the Sunlight and Shade’ by C. E. Tyndale Biscoe, a Christian missionary. Through this book I discovered that the credit for football’s introduction in Kashmir goes to none other than the famous patron of games and sports, Tyndale Biscoe.
While returning from Bombay after a short visit, Tyndale Biscoe brought with him a football, undoubtedly the first one to be seen by students of his missionary school in Kashmir. Tyndale Biscoe was eager to introduce among his Brahmin lads this new energetic game. Without wasting time, the students were assembled in the lawn of the school and the football was displayed to them. To his surprise, it hardly aroused any interest or pleasure among the students.
Looking at the ball with piercing eyes, the boys inquired, what is this? In reply to their question Tyndale Biscoe replied that it was a football and it made for an excellent game, which would help make them strong. The boys posed one more question: will we get any money by playing it? Biscoe replied, no. Hearing this, the boys showed reluctance and dislike for the new game. However, at the same time they could not stop themselves questioning Tyndale Biscoe. The next question they raised was, what is it made of? Tyndale Biscoe replied, leather. When they heard this, the boys rejected the football outright, saying they will not touch it, for it was unholy.
Tyndale Biscoe then launched into a scolding, ‘Money or no money, holy or unholy, you are going to play football this afternoon at three-thirty, so you had better learn the rules at once.’ Immediately, Biscoe took to the blackboard and began to explain to the boys the rules of the new game.
Tyndale Biscoe sensed the atmosphere of dislike towards the game and instructed teachers to arm themselves with sticks and herd the students to the playground, and prevent them from escaping. Biscoe along with his staff took the boys to the playground and within no time the ball was placed in the centre. All that remained was the whistle to start the game.
As the whistle was blown, none of the students moved. Wondering if they had not understood the order, Biscoe instructed the students to kick off the ball. Still they did not budge an inch. Disappointed and disgruntled, Biscoe asked the reason. The boys replied in trembling voice, ‘We cannot kick this ball, for it is an unholy ball and we are holy Brahmans.’ Tyndale Biscoe thought it a challenge and gave them the last chance to change their minds. Looking at the teachers armed with sticks, the students began to kick the ball. Thus started the journey of football in Kashmir.
There was, soon, much excitement and the game was played with enthusiasm until Biscoe called ‘time’.
The writer is a research scholar at Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. [email protected]