Kashmiri women and their growing love for football! 

A growing band of women are taking to playing football in the Kashmir Valley

Kashmiri women and their growing love for football! 

Mudassir Kuloo

Nadiya Nighat (23), the first women’s football coach in the Kashmir Valley, has been playing football for the last 13 years. Afshan Ashiq (24) playing for Mumbia team as a goalkeeper. Iynam Ghulam Mohammad (21) started playing football five-years ago after watching Afshan play.

They belong to a growing band of Kashmiri women who have taken to the beautiful game, for long the preserve of men in large parts of the country. Things are changing and Nadiya recently joined as coach for Real Kashmir Footbal Club (RKFC) for the girls’ team.

The club, a few years old, is the dream child of a Kashmiri Pandit couple, Sandeep Chattoo and his wife Poonam. After three years of mentoring a men’s team, the club decided to form and fund a women’s team also. Poonam is from Karnataka but has lived in the Valley for the past three decades after making Kashmir her second home.

In adverse situations, sports provide an outlet and relief, she points out.

Nadiya, whose favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo, has done her graduation and is playing as a striker. There are 45 girls who have recently joined the RKFC women’s academy.

“Listening to the taunts of people did not distract me,” says Afshan, who in a recent online conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned that she learned the art of keeping herself calm from former India captain MS Dhoni.

In 2017, Afshan had been caught on camera pelting stones at the police outside the women’s college on Moulana Azad Road in Srinagar. “I had reacted in anger that time because some police personnel used force on girls. But I am a footballer, not a professional stone pelter,” she says.

Apparently, a film is also being made on her where Athiya Shetty, daughter of actor Sunil Shetty, would play Afshan’s role. Gulshan Grover’s son will be producing the movie. “The movie will be shot in Kashmir. It got delayed because of COVID-19,” she informs.

Omar Amin from RKFC management however confessed, “RKFC needs sponsors and help from the government,” without which the going will get toucher.

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