Not a household name in Kashmir, Afreen Hyder wants to be a role model someday
Like every dreamer, Afreen is beating the odds - one kick at a time, to excel in a sport that is not talked about often.
Like many Indian sportspersons competing in lesser-followed sports, Afreen Hyder's name appears on an obscured list somewhere. Her achievements go unreported in her state of Jammu & Kashmir. But, like every dreamer, she is beating the odds - one kick at a time, to excel in a sport that is not talked about often.
Afreen picked up the sport from her school Delhi Public School in Srinagar when she was seven. That was back in 2007. "I used to watch a lot of action movies. One day, I saw some children practicing and asked my sports teacher if she could train me as well."
Soon she found herself participating and winning in the District Championships. Her instincts informed her early in life that taekwondo was her true calling.
One of the key elements of staying in any sports is to have the right motivation. In Afreen's case, it was practicing with boys. "Somehow I always wanted to break the stereotype in Kashmir," she says. This goal always kept her going. "A lot of times, in school I ended up in detention for kicking my fellow mates," adds the youngster.
Achievements can be a lot of things and in her case, there are a lot of achievements. At a very young age, she has managed to win several medals. Apart from medals at school games and district events, she won a bronze medal at the G1 International Championships where as many as 19 countries participated. In an international event held in Nepal, Afreen was the only female from J&K and she did not disappoint winning another bronze.
Almost a graduate from Jesus & Mary College under Delhi University, she is proof that development never stops, and sports is a lifelong journey. "I will be preparing from Administrative Services and practice every day with the hope of representing my country at the highest level." Many goals and dreams are yet to be conquered.
While many athletes complain about lack of support from family in the initial years, Afreen doesn't fall in that category. "My parents got divorced when I was 10. Inspite of that, I have received the greatest of support from both my mother and father. They never cared about what society thinks. My mother is my role model. She has been with me through thick and skin, never giving up on me," she adds.
But what about the support from the state government in terms of funding and support? "Nothing," was her quick response to the question. "I have not received any support. In fact, the state promotes people who don't even know what sport means. All my expenses were taken care of by my family."
"The state has given me nothing apart from disappointment but I really want to make a mark for all the budding athletes," she concludes.