The Kashmir Valley is a place where there is no shortage of talent among the youth. Till date, the youth here have made a name for themselves in whatever fields they participated in, be it education or sports competitions.
The youth of Kashmir used to play at the local level with the belief that they can compete alongside the rest of the youth of the country.
However, the first problem faced by the youth in the Kashmir Valley was that the playgrounds were built mainly in the cities or at the district headquarters. There was a lot of political influence as well, as a result of which many who could have done well in sports were never given the chance. Also, there was lack of proper guidance and infrastructure.
As a result of all these, a large number of youth interested in sports could not fulfil their passion. No steps were taken at the government level, due to which the youth could not fulfil their dreams for many areas.
But things have changed now with many stadiums and playing arenas coming up at the district and tehsil levels in the past few years.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration had announced two years ago that wherever land is available, playgrounds will be constructed. After this announcement, playgrounds have been constructed or are being constructed in most of the panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government initiatives are yielding results now. In areas where people only knew how to play cricket or volleyball, the youth are now taking to different sporting disciplines, and making a name for themselves not only in Kashmir, but also in the country.
There was a large land area of more than 100 kanals at Bijuni in Tral sub-district of Pulwama district, which was just fenced off by previous governments due to lack of interest. Because of this, a large part of the land was illegally occupied. The youth of the area had to travel 20-30 km to play. Now an indoor stadium has been constructed, which is the first of its kind in South Kashmir.
Apart from the indoor stadium, football grounds, volleyball arenas and other playgrounds have also been constructed.
Also, a Khelo India centre has also been established in Tral where separate coaches have been appointed to train the youth in different sporting disciplines.
At the moment, a large number of children train at the centre. Also, many girls are now taking a keen interest in sports at the centre, as such facilities were not available to them earlier.
Sajjad Ahmed, a coach at the centre, said that many of the trainees have taken part in state and national level competitions.
A young trainee, Abid Ahmed, said that since the Khelo India centre started in Tral, he has not wasted a single minute and has learnt to use time wisely.
The youth of Tral are also getting training in martial arts, and are aspiring to achieve glory by becoming professional athletes.
Feroz Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Lurow Jagir village in Tral, is a national-level martial arts player who operates a Sqay martial arts academy named as ‘Leeniv Martial Arts’. He has been training hundreds of young boys and girls, particularly from far-off villages.
The players from his academy are leaving their mark at different state and national-level competitions. In December last year, seven players from the ‘Leeniv Martial Arts’ won gold medals under different age categories at the UT level, and were selected for national-level championships.
Similarly, near about one-dozen players from his academy got selected for the National Sqay Championship held in Jammu a few days back.
Feroz said that he started the academy in 2017 with only six trainees, following which he worked hard and spent money from his own pocket.
He said that around 250 trainees are now enrolled with his academy, who are competing in senior, junior and sub-junior categories.