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Kashmir has talent but no infrastructure: Footballer Ishfaq Ahmed

Sunday October 23, 2011 07:07:58 PM, Zehra Shafi, IANS

Srinagar: The presence of star Kashmiri footballer Ishfaq Ahmed in the Salgaocar football club will see the valley rooting for the Goan giants, which will be looking to defend its I-league title this season. But he rues the fact that the state lacks sporting infrastructure, other than for polo and golf, and the "government is not doing much to exploit the talent".

The widely travelled Ishfaq, who has also played for Air India, Dempo and HAL, has settled down in Goa this year after a long stint with Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. The striker was also the first from Jammu and Kashmir to lead Mohun Bagan and was honoured this year during the club's centenary celebrations of the IFA Shield win.

Ishfaq, the second Kashmiri after Mehrajuddin Wadoo to strike it rich in Indian football, is determined to see Salgaocar defend the I-League crown despite making a poor start with a 0-1 defeat against arch-rivals Dempo in the opening match.

"My desire is to help my team Salgaocar qualify for AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League and AFC Cup and to give my best every time I go on the field," Ishfaq, who hails from the Barbarshah area in Srinagar, told IANS.

Ishfaq, who holds a BA degree from the Gandhi Memorial College, wants to spread the message of peace in the troubled valley through football.

"Being a Kashmiri, I faced many problems in life. I was abused and even denied a flat. My colleagues called me a terrorist," said Ishfaq, whose state mate Wadoo also plays in Salgaocar.

Asked about the future of the game in Kashmir, Ishfaq said: "Kashmir has lot of talent. People are passionate about the game but unfortunately, the government is not doing much to exploit the talent that we have in the state. We have only one ground at the Bakshi Stadium and that is not enough. We need more infrastructure for the game. I have taken up the issue with the authorities concerned but without any result. The government is more interested in promoting polo and golf."

Ishfaq's parents wanted him to be an engineer or doctor but the youngster had different plans.

"I followed my dream and achieved it. I am happy with what I am doing," he said.

Recalling his formative years in Srinagar, Ishfaq said: "I used to play in a stadium at Barbarshah. I was passionate and developed an interest. Biscoe School had their own football team and offered me a scholarship. After school I went to play for YMCA, which is the famous football club in Kashmir and was recognised at the state level."

Ishfaq said it was YMCA coach Sat Pal Singh who helped him emerge as a good footballer.

"Sat Pal Singh not only brushed up my skills but also helped me turn into a professional. My teachers at Biscoe and Gandhi College also supported me a lot," he said.

Asked about achievements, Ishfaq said: "I have represented my country, which is a big achievement in itself. I was declared player of the tournament in Santosh Trophy which was held in Kashmir in 2008. I was also a part of the Mohun Bagan team that played against four-time European champions Bayern Munich in Oliver Kahn's farewell match. It was a dream come true to play against the legendary German goalkeeper."

(Zehra Shafi can be contacted at







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