Amid unrest and chaos, J&K’s Sports Council Football Academy (SCFA) is giving wings to young dreams
Years back, when you would have thought of a popular sport in Kashmir, cricket would have been the obvious answer. But the last few years have witnessed a passion for football in Kashmir, with some clubs even qualifying to the I-League and some of the oldest football leagues seeing a revival.
The journey of a footballer in Kashmir is full of struggle and lacking in resources and exposure at the professional level. When you’re from a region which is in news mostly for unrest and conflict, a career in football becomes even more difficult.
To become a successful performer in a competitive field like football, players not only need to become players with exceptional skill but to understand football at its core. They have to develop tactical abilities and be highly dedicated to the game, giving an extensive amount of time to practice in order to improve gameplay and to understand the physiological requirements of the professional level of the sport.
In a place like Kashmir, with opportunities limited and distractions galore, the Sports Council Football Academy (SCFA) has brought a new hope and passion, a sense of brotherhood and team spirit, and sportsmanship among those playing football and those who want to see Kashmiris in national and international leagues. At the end of the day, it’s the parents who decide for their children and, therefore, developing a healthy relationship with them is of much importance for sports teachers and clubs. That’s what the Sports Council Football Academy does, giving parents knowledge about this particular sport and its prospects, making them more appreciative of this beautiful game.
The academy has made a major contribution to football which is rarely spoken about. Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Javed Ahmed Sofi and Satpal Singh as coaches have been instrumental in raising a team that earned nationwide name and realised the true potential of footballers from the whole of Kashmir, the footballers who were mostly unknown and unable to play professionally till then.
The coaches have trained players and helped them reach heights they never thought they could. They have helped players push themselves to step outside of their comfort zone and grow. Players like Suhail Ahmad Bhat, Sajad Hussain, Parth Dewan, Jahangir Ahmad, Rishi Rajput, all playing for the Indian National Team (U-16), and Muheet Shabir playing for Kerala Blasters, an ISL team, are a product of Sports Council Football Academy. With training from professional coaches, they’re now able to bend themselves and focus their minds on coming up with solutions that help their team achieve better results.
Professional coaches in the SCFA include highly-rated players from Kashmir who have made their name as international footballers, like Mehrajuddin Wadoo. The reason why SCFA tends to have coaches from Kashmir is to have that bonding with young budding footballers in terms of similar language, culture, values and problem-solving approaches, which results in the growth of team spirit.
Coaches of SCFA not only teach football but everything that one needs for personal growth, ethics and worldview. The whole teaching process results in a change of personality and character. Young footballers begin to forge common interests and values. SCFA often feels like home and lets them free to be themselves. It’s hard for any other team or club to imagine such a home-like football school where you not only learn to dribble or pass but are also morally educated.
Moreover, football in Kashmir needs more of role models like Danish Farooq, Shahnawaz Bashir, Khalid Qayoom and many more, whom young Kashmiri lads can look up to for inspiration. People are now coming to know of the efforts SCFA has put into coaching and young lads are joining the club for a great team spirit. Players are in the field together, working for each other, for the team and for the valley’s football culture, as one.