September 2017 News

Football Match Near Strife-torn LoC In Kashmir Attracts Huge Crowds

20 September 2017
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: Thousands of spectators gathered to watch a soccer match in north Kashmir's Kupwara district, near the strife-torn Line of Control (LoC) on Monday evening. This was the first time the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association (JKFA) organised a football match in the region, which is ravaged by terror attacks and ceasefire violations on a regular basis. Fear took the backseat as over 20,000 enthusiastic football lovers - from eight-year-olds to senior citizens - thronged the Baki Aker stadium in Rajwar from afternoon, to witness the final of the Bangus Valley Soccer Tournament between Mohammadan Sports of Sopore and SW Ashkura of Baramulla. The match began around 7.30pm on Monday, said Aijaz Sofi, chief patron of Kupwara District Football Association. The 60-minute game was played under generator-powered floodlights due to disrupted electric supply in the area, but no inconvenience could deter the zeal of the fans - who were in a festive mood - seeking temporary respite from the turbulence in their daily lives, Sofi added. 'In the last 28 years, the Valley has suffered immensely due to militancy. The gathering of such huge crowd in Kashmir without any security arrangements is an achievement,' Sofi said. 'Kashmiri youth possess great talent, but some elements with vested interests have branded them stone-pelters. They can outshine everybody given the right opportunity,' he added. JKFA president and treasurer of All India Football Federation (AIFF), Zamir Thakur, said, 'Organising the event in the volatile LoC region was possible only because of the wholehearted support of the people. I was at the venue till 11.30pm, but cheering fans made us forget that we were near the border and not in Srinagar.' Thakur added, 'Many such events are lined up in the future. We want to take football - a poor man's game - to every corner of the state. For this, however, the government needs to develop infrastructure in remote areas.'