Football cheer for J&K
Like a sliver of a silver lining in the midst of dark clouds, sport returned to Kashmir. Amid the turmoil in everyday life from myriad restrictions on people in the Valley, not only was an I-League soccer match involving the local team played in Srinagar Thursday, but the home team also won — with local boy Farooq named “hero of the match” — to warm the cockles of the hearts of Kashmiris.
This was victory in the literal as well as metaphorical sense for the Real Kashmir team. The constraints of a Valley virtually in lockdown since August 5 may be the actual reality, which is why the home team victory seemed very much like the one in the famous soccer film Escape to Victory, where prisoners take on their guards in a life-and-death match, and win.
In over four months since the repeal of Article 370, J&K has been in focus, internationally too. The soccer team’s fortunes may have been expected to wane with the Valley’s, now a Union territory, but footballers were intrepid enough to salvage a few draws in away games.
The first home game was a messenger of hope: 6,000 soccer fans were there to cheer the Snow Leopards on. Facing Real Kashmir were defending champions Chennai FC and even though their fortunes have been on the downswing this season, the show by the Kashmir team was encouraging.
Soccer and diplomacy have always been closely intertwined while the game itself has served as a conduit for billionaires who own the most popular teams worldwide. Given the circumstances in which Kashmiris have put together this team, the feeling that the Davids have triumphed over Goliaths is the icing on the cake.