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For local Real Kashmir players, it is family support that keeps them going

For local Real Kashmir players, it is family support that keeps them going

Rukaya Bukhari

Published: 26 Nov 2018 4:13 PM GMT
Real Kashmir – the noise in the country and a beacon of hope in the tormented Vale –has become a reason for Kashmiri people – old or young, to smile, dream and hope big in the valley of tears. Real Kashmir Football Club(RKFC), the new fascination among youngsters, is the first I-League team of Jammu and Kashmir and has stunned each one with their performance from day one. Their recent win in the I-League vs Indian Arrows, their first of the season at home, has only acted as a catalyst to the enthusiasm in the Valley Emerging in 2016 as underdogs, RKFC, also known as Snow Leopards of Kashmir, have won the hearts of millions of people not only from within the country but also from outside by showing their brilliance on the field. Playing their first I-League match in front of the home crowd in sub-zero temperature, after the valley witnessed the first snowfall of the season, wholly charged up the atmosphere and left spectators in a state of excitement and spellbound. Braving the bone-chilling weather, people from all walks of life are rushing to the venue to witness the historic matches of the home team, RKFC, in admiration of support and cheer. Waiting with bated breath, the exhilarated parents of valley based RKFC footballers left the homes empty in the midday to watch their heroes dribble and capture 
moments at the busy football field AstroTurf TRC Tourist Reception Centre –Srinagar. Beaming with pride, the expressions of parents’ ricochets from ecstasy to tears while watching their young lads to strike the ball and experience the feeling that they never felt before.

Home support- the bedrock for local players

It is said that for every successful athlete or player, it is their families who are behind them all the way; same is the case with the young guns of RKFC, Danish Farooq, Ifham Tariq and Mohammad Hammad and rest of the players. “I am proud of my son. He works very hard despite ups and downs and financial crunch. He is a gifted footballer, and I want him to achieve bigger miles in his life,”
says Rashida Farooq, mother of Danish Farooq, Hero of the first home game against Churchill Brothers. Rashida Farooq –a housewife and mother of five daughters (Isha, Hinna, Mehak, Bazila, and Seerat) –leaves her all personal needs behind so that his son Danish and her daughters can have everything they need. Speaking to The Bridge, Rashida – a concerned and amicable mother –says that most of the time Danish stays away from home to keep the fumes of football rising. “We [family] are always with Danish. We talk maximum times on the phone, and until we don’t talk to him and inquire about his well being we do not sleep at night,”
she says. Being a mother, Rashida prepares favorite meals for Danish before his return and decorates Dastarkhwan with a variety of foods items. “Before his arrival at home I use to call Danish and enquire his whereabouts, till that time I prepare everything for Danish whether food or any other necessities. I remain very concerned about his health and hygiene, so I always remain after him to eat something. I want him to achieve big miles in his life and always pray for his success and health,” Rashida says. Coming from the football-genetic family, Danish’s father, Farooq Ahmad had himself remained a legendary footballer of the valley
and cherished the dream of playing football while representing the state team – J&K – in Santosh Trophy besides had played for Kolkata giants, Mohammedan Sporting. “It will be perfect to say that football is in our blood as our whole family has been associated with this game. My grandfather was also a footballer, and then he imbibed the footballing skills in my father then, in turn, my father transferred this addiction among my brothers and me. Later I imbibed the same in my son, Danish, as well and is enriched with football talent,” Farooq says.
Also read: What 'real' Kashmir wants
Danish was only 13 when he started to play the game of football professionally and was selected in J&K Bank Football Academy. After two years in the academy, Danish was picked up for the JK Bank Football Team, during which the team won around 12 leagues and tournaments.
“Danish has played against the top teams of India, and in every match, he has given his best, overall he has performed well so far. Danish has also proved his mettle in Santosh Trophy where the best teams of the country compete with each other,”
he says. In 2016, Danish came in the eyeballs of Shamim Mehraj – the owner of the RKFC team – which became a turning point for him to touch new skies and from past two years Danish is playing with RKFC and is displaying his skills. “To groom him professionally and nurture his raw talent JK bank football coaches - Hilal Rasool Parrey and Manzoor Ahmad Dar- have helped him a lot to transform him into a professional footballer and is now getting coaching under finest foreign coach of RKFC, David Robertson,”
he said. David Robertson – a former Scotland and Glasgow Rangers player – was appointed as the head coach of Real Kashmir in 2017. Under his tenure Real Kashmir made it to the Indian top-level football and became the first team from Kashmir to get promoted to First Division I-League. Robertson – a UEFA Pro License coach – had earlier represented Aberdeen in Scottish League and Leeds United in English Premier League. Moreover, in 1990, Robertson, has helped Glasgow Rangers to win nine consecutive Scottish League titles during his playing days. In opine of Farooq, Robertson has played a significant role in developing RKFC team to present level.
“He [Robertson] has himself played with the best teams of the world and has great knowledge about football. Both technically and theoretically, he has helped the team to overcome their deficiencies besides making the boys well understood about the game,”
he remarked. Drawing a comparison between present-day football and the football that was played at their times, Farooq says that there is a massive difference between then and now. “Now kids are getting support from their parents and are availed with best possible facilities. We lacked sound infrastructure, equipment, access to healthy diet and basic facilities which are paramount for football. Now football academies are being launched which help kids to learn football from their right age,”
he added. Recollecting the memories, he says that they used to play football with much fanfare at the local ground of Eidgah, Srinagar and Danish practised at the same venue right after his childhood. “During our time we also used to play there, and the ground uses to be full of sports lovers. Everyone would get entertained and felt being its part. When Danish was a kid, he used to follow me and then mingle with other footballers to learn the game. With growing passion towards football he used to imitate the steps of other senior footballers and subsequently grasped techniques and skills involved in the game,”
Farooq says.

"People know me for my son"

Leaving home in the morning breeze at 7, Danish uses to attend daily practice sessions at Eidgah ground and returns home around 11 am and repeats the practice at evening as well to master the skills and keep the rhythm of football going. “The way Danish engage and dribbles with the ball is very different, and the technique he uses is also unique. The sound and novelty in techniques are important which becomes a surprising element and keeps the opposing team on tenterhooks,” he says. Getting inspired from Danish, many aspiring footballers especially kids are now getting involved in football besides some desirous kids are getting training under Danish at nearby play-field, Eidgah ground.
“People know me because of Danish now. Danish has become
talk of the town. Even when I go to market or pass by through any street the small kids use to say, 'See Danish’s father is going' and their ecstasy turns into next level when they see Danish around or in the news, etc. I feel delighted to see such admiration for my son among youth and people,” he says. “He has given a million reasons for people of Kashmir, especially to his neighbours, to smile and cheer. I’m very proud of my son; there can’t be anything bigger than this,” Farooq adds. Another RKFC snow-leopard, Ifham Tariq Mir, playing at the Forward position in RKFC – was only eleven years old when he got addicted to the game of football and kicked off his football career with local football club – Solina FC – a football club of his native place Solina, Srinagar.
Ifham Tariq Mir “He was a good cricketer, but at the age of 11 one of the coaches, Mohammad Ashraf Sofi, after observing his playing skills in football predicted that he can earn a good name and can become a successful footballer. After that he provided every sort of training to Ifham to nurture his football talent,” says Ifham’s father, Tariq Ahmad Mir. He continues, “I still remember when he played his debut match from the local club, Solina FC in which he scored a hat-trick of goals that became a turning point for him to take football professionally. After observing his passion and enthusiasm towards football, I suggested him to leave cricket and focus on football only.”
Ifham has received training under the well-known coaches, and ace footballers of the valley which include Mohammad Ashraf Sofi, Riyaz Ahmad, Hilal Rasool Parray, Manzoor Ahmad Dar, Majeed Kakroo, Sajid Dar etc. and is currently being mentored by the foreign coach of RKFC, David Robertson. Apart from playing with local as well as departmental football clubs like J&K Bank Academy, Food Supplies, and JK Forest, Ifham had also joined hands with the first I-league second Division team of the state, Lone Star Kashmir Football Club (LSKFC) where he gained exposure and momentum and was later picked up by Mohammedan Sporting Club Kolkata for domestic tournament. Tariq said that the luck finally knocked the door when Ifham was picked by RKFC,
“and when the team qualified for I-League, it became a case of ‘sone pe suhaga’ (icing on the cake).”
“Seeing our kid playing in the much popular I-league is not only a proud moment for us but also the whole state, and we are pleased to see him rubbing shoulders against the top tiers of Indian football clubs,” he says. From the past five years, Ifham is associated with RKFC and has remained a regular player for the team. Moreover, showing dynamic trait, Ifham has remained three times gold medallist in tennis football championship at all India level. Apart from sports, Ifham has excelled in studies as well and has completed his graduation in arts while keeping balance in both games and studies. Tariq Ahmad – a businessman – being a football fanatic, can be seen glued at TRC turf ground to witness the matches.
“It does not matter whether my son Ifham is playing the match or not I used to watch matches always but yes it feels something different and an initial rush of pride runs in my veins when I see my son playing,”
he says. Taking edge from their father, Ifham and Tafeem (younger brother of Ifhaam) evolved as footballers. Tafeem has remained associated with JK Bank Academy, PDC, and with the I-League team, LSKFC. Ifham Tariq with his family “People have lots of expectations from Ifham and people always talk about him and his performance. Many kids are inspired of him and seeing the performance of Ifham, they are also opting the game,” he says and adds, “meri pehchan mere bache se hi hai, (people identify me because of Ifham now). What else could be a proud moment for parents when they are known or recognised because of their children.”
Mir is of the opinion that every parent should encourage their children to opt sports as it is the source of a vast knowledge. It can be chosen as a profession now besides a child can learn essential life lessons and can prove beneficial for the physical and mental wellbeing of a child. “The whole atmosphere has completely changed. Now-a-days, I saw parents carrying their children to playfields and encourage them to play. Even the parents wait until their kids do not finish their practice session which is a good sign for J&K sports altogether,” he says. He says that earlier, LSKFC was having huge fan following but soon after RKFC gets a berth in first I-League division increased their fan following by manifolds.
“Kya haina ki logoun ka
mizaaj yahan mousam ki tarah hota hai (here the mood of people is like weather), now people talk about RKFC only,” he quipped. Ifham’s mother Shahnaz Tariq is a housewife, who relentlessly supports her son, Ifham, from thick and thin and her sacrifices have become the bedrock of Ifham’s success. “As parents we want him to achieve bigger miles, but there is a hindrance of financial support. However, his self-confidence, hard work, dedication towards his game are enough for him to face challenges. We want him to reach a higher level in the football arena,” Ifham’s parents expressed.

Disappointment in cricket turned to passion for football

The cricket buff turned into footballer –Mohammad Hammad – is a defender of RKFC and is associated with the club from past two years. Strong encouragement from his family members gave Hammad the strength to propel in his voyage. The support of family, friends and teammates besides intrinsic motivation is the secret weapon of Hammad that thrusts him to perform and perform best. Shaping his own destiny, Hammad was given a free hand by their parents to decide what he wants to achieve. Mohammed Hammad with his family “Each person is born with a unique set of traits and talents. Everyone can't become a doctor or an engineer. We left it to Hammad to decide and construct his future,”
parents of Hammad, father –Ishfaq Hussain Pampori and mother –Mehjabeen expressed while talking to The Bridge. “I told him if you aim to be a footballer and wants to pursue it as your profession or career, then you have to prove yourself by achieving something in this profession and whatever support we can lend and is in our helm we will do that,” Ishfaq Hussain elaborates. Seeking their pleasure in Hammad’s decision and watching him inching towards his goal, they said, “It is a proud moment for all of us. I am feeling proud that my son is playing in I-league, with the stalwarts, and is earning a good name,”
they said. “Being parents, we have provided an undeterred support besides every possible facility to our child, Hammad. He through his hard work and dedication has reached this level and it's just a beginning of his wonderful journey,” the parents of Hammad expressed. Mohammed Hammad Going busy with the tours and tourneys provides him less time to share his time with the family. Hammad’s parents expressed that making sacrifices for their beloved children is what parenting is all about. The emotions of Hammad’s mother, Mehjabeen Ishfaq reaches another pitch when she remembers Hammad’s childhood.
“When Hammad was seven months old, his aunt gifted him a football and his uncle’s used to come and play football with Hammad in a room and Hammad’s interest towards sports grew more,”
she says. Saying every parent remains apprehensive about the career and future of their children and live with the strong desire that their children excel in their respective fields. “He was fond of playing from the very beginning. I was little apprehensive at first when he was paying much attention towards sports rather than on studies but he coped with both entities, and later I got convinced that he can pursue his career in sports,”
she adds. Having the desire to watch his son playing football in the stadium, she says, “I’ve never watched his match in the stadium, but my younger son and my husband captures a video recording of Hammad’s game so that I too can watch my son playing. I too wanted to go to the stadium and watch my son playing, but the women folk do not turn up in the stadium.” “Now I told my family that I will put on a veil and watch the next game of RKFC at TRC ground,” she laughs and quips. Ishfaq Hussain Pampori – a Range officer in J&K Forest department – had himself remained an ace sportsperson, which was a plus point for Hammad.
“I have myself played cricket for almost 30-35 years at state and departmental level but after I met an accident and couldn’t retain to cricket, so I started playing carrom. I always support my son in his sports career, and whatever matches he has played here at home ground I have watched all those,”
Hammad’s father, Ishfaq Hussain reiterates. Cricket being his first love, Hammad has rubbed his shoulders with the national level cricketers of under-19 teams of various states, but lack of genuine opportunities resulted in a massive setback for his cricketing career. “He was very fond of cricket and was representing J&K State in U-19 level but in 2014 when
valley was gripped in devastating floods, Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association announced the U-19 team for national level tournaments. To much shock to Hammad, his name was missing from the selection list of players irrespective of his consistent performance during that season which forced him to left cricket,” Ishfaq says. Recollecting the memories of Hammad’s childhood, he said that it still strikes to his mind when Hammad was in his early childhood and used to volley the ball against the wall which would often feel Hammad ecstatic and confident. “Afterwards he got more inclined towards cricket and his days would often pass on cricket field to master the skills and techniques of the game. But soon after receiving a blow from JKCA, while giving away his crucial 10-12 years to cricket, in sheer disappointment Hammad took U-turn towards football,”
he recalls. However, being acquainted with the football from childhood helped him to express himself differently. To a much advantage, Hammad’s uncles – Showkat Hussain and Imtiyaz Hussain – became the vanguards to evolve his hidden talent and skills. “He was mentored by his uncles, Showkat Hussain and Imtiyaz Hussain besides a footballer from the vicinity of Rawalpora, Firdous Ahmad Baba helped him to nourish his skills.  Firdous would often take him along in local tourneys for participation which subsequently helped him to gain exposure and experience,” he elaborated. Coming from Batamaloo area of Srinagar, Hammad started his career with the local team Young Batamaloo FC and later was picked up by valley’s I-league teams LSKFC and then RKFC besides has played in Mohammedan Sporting Club of Kolkata. “Hilal Rasool Parray and Majeed Kakroo – the most popular faces in Kashmir football – have played a big role in evolving him as one of the prolific footballers. Now he is getting coaching under David Robertson, which is also a big advantage for his footballing career,” Ishfaq said. Hammad is being inspired by the renowned footballers of the state – J&K – Mehraj-u-din Wadoo, Ishfaq Ahmad, and Majeed Kakroo. Being a defender, he also admires Sandesh Jhingan – a defender – an Indian professional footballer who plays for the Kerala Blasters and Indian football team. “In football the position of footballer matters. He is a defender, and when he proved his potential and showed his defensive skills, RKFC inducted him in the team. Thanks to Almighty Allah!” the joyous father of Hammad exclaimed. Saying that inspiration is itself a big thing and RKFC has inspired youngsters and generated interest and passion among them towards football. RKFC is a good platform for every youngster. They provide good support, and when they see the talent among players, they value it as compared to JKCA. They conduct talent hunts and provide a platform to the youngsters. Everyone wants to take the opportunity with both hands and give their best shot,” he says. Trying to maintain the balance between sports and studies, Hammad is pursuing Bachelors in Commerce (B.Com) from Degree College Bemina, Srinagar. “He was an extraordinary student but from the time he took football as a career his studies got little affected, but it is a real fact that one can’t excel in all fields,” he adds. Hammad’s sibling – Mohammad Saad – is also marshalling on the footprints of his elder brother and is associated with RKFC juniors’ team. With a view that parental support can help children to achieve their goals, he has a message for every parent that let their children opt their dream and provide them full support, and they will achieve something in that field. “Two things can’t happen at same time, which is a difficult task so let their children cherish their dreams and provide them full support as every child can’t become a doctor or engineer. Yes studies are important, and they need to study as well, but their main focus should be on their main goal.” He further says that in every field there is humungous talent in Kashmir. All they need is to be crafted and mentored. It can only be possible if their parents will support them and will not thrust them from doing this or that.” Despite football being the contact game and prone to cause severe injuries to players, the parents of Hammad are much optimistic and said that injuries are part and parcel of the game. “In every sport, injury is a part and parcel of the game and how players tackle it, is all that what matters. Woh kehtey hai na, Girte hain sheh-sawaar hi maidaan-e-jang mein; woh tifl kya gire ga jo ghuTnoN ke bal chale (It’s gallant knights riding in battles that fall; Not feeble child, who can do naught but crawl), wearing a confident smile he concludes with the famous couplet. Earlier, in May 2018, RKFC scripted new pages in the history of J&K football by winning the second division in its second attempt and made it to the Indian top flight domestic league. To drive on a yellow brick road, German sportswear brand Adidas accompanied the RKFC to take a new ride and announced its partnership with the club. Meanwhile, RKFC has played three matches in the I-league so far which include two-home and one away match. In its debut match of I-League season 2018-19, Real Kashmir FC started on a high note against the mighty Minerva Punjab FC. Defeating the defending Champions, Minerva FC away from home in Panchkula, boosted the morale and confidence of the team thereby raising the expectations of their fans to a different level and helped them prepare for what would be their first win in the I-League in their most recent match vs Indian Arrows. The boys surely have miles to go before they sleep. But so far, the start has been good. What is clear is that with the right kind of support, these footballers can create incomparable wonders.
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