The new season of the I-League 2018-19 is about to begin in two days time and all eyes will be on Real Kashmir who will be the first team from the valley to play in India’s top division league. Real Kashmir gained promotion after beating Hindustan FC 3-2 in the final game of the season.
At the launch of the upcoming season of I-League, when players of every other team were greeted with claps, Srinagar’s Shahnawaz Bashir and Nigeria’s Loveday Enyinnaya, representing Real Kashmir, elicited excited cheers and thunderous applause. A proud moment for players who have dreamed to put their club on the country’s football map.
Coming from a state that is marred by violence most of the time of the year, Real Kashmir has provided a breath of fresh air and glimmer of hope of changing things around, and Bashir has surely become the representative of this positive change.
Inspite of the electricity and Internet supply being unpredictable, the young man keenly follows the Spanish league with whatever resources he has at his disposal and holds high regard for former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez
“There is a player called Xavi Hernandez. Have you heard of him? I like his game a lot; he is my favourite. I like his passing ability, ball control, and awesome ball-supplying abilities,” he says while speaking to First Post.
Now that he helped his team qualify for the top division, his wants his team to stay put in the top throughout the league, and also lift the trophy. He talks of playing on frozen grounds and practicing on curfew days and how the team trains in such tough conditions.
The team trains in Srinagar’s TRC ground that has valley’s only artificial turf. In winter months, Bashir and his team train in snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. Bashir says:
It gets really tough. Water freezes in taps and we have to pour warm water on supply pipes to get drinking water. There’s snow and rain, and of course, you know the political climate there. But we are used to overcoming tough situations.”
There is a saying, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’, and for Bashir, it was his passion for the game that really helped him to strive harder to achieve success.
There was an earthquake in 2005, floods in 2015, and there’s violence…it makes you mentally tough. Somehow, I never let the passion die and never allowed anything to affect my game. These are things that you learn to live with if you are coming from a conflict zone.”
Bashir took the sport at a very young age and his liking only started to grow. His father, who runs a cooking gas business, was an aspiring footballer in his youth and supported his son in pursuit of his dream.
My mother wanted to push me in studies, but she is now very proud of me. In fact, all my family is eagerly waiting for me to play in Srinagar, so that they can come to see me. Football has always had a big following in Kashmir and people have a lot of love for the game. I am expecting a full house on home games.”
Bashir says that tight security sometimes affects his practice, however, over the time they have found a way to skirt past the security cover.
We do not stop practice due to cold or climatic conditions. However, things are different during curfews. Sometimes, we request the army to let us go, and they oblige. Otherwise, we stealthily take a ferry and go via Chunt Kul rivulet, avoiding the security cover. I know it’s dangerous, but the allure of the football field is just too much. I think these hardships make you a tougher person. All the Kashmiri boys in the team are mentally very strong.”
Real Kashmir FC will begin their season with away game against Minerva FC on 31st of this month and Bashir will be hoping that his team’s success will help more youngsters to take up football than throwing stones.