April 26, 2016

Football, uniting Kashmiris overseas

Below is an article submitted by me for certain social media channels for spreading awareness about the KFL league taking place in Dubai.

UAE over the past few years has become an overseas destination of choice for Kashmiris pursuing their livelihoods outside the subcontinent and Kashmiri expat community in Dubai has seen an exponential growth in the past decade owing to the numerous success stories of Kashmiri entrepreneurs and business executives in Middle East.

The usual work life in UAE can be quite exhausting with long working hours, congested commute routes and harsh climate. Last year a bunch of Kashmiris decided to get together every weekend and spend at least one hour sweating it out over a friendly match of football. They started with a cheerful group of six and met every Friday after sunset to burn few calories and play the game that they all loved. As the word spread, so did the numbers and new players kept joining in every week; some old and some young but all with a similar passion for the sport.
The number of players kept swelling and organizing matches became increasingly difficult till it caught the attention of some successful businesses in Dubai, namely, DRE Homes, Stone House Real Estate, Location Real Estate, and Ottomans International Technologies who decided to invest in an idea of a well organized football league for Kashmiris living in UAE which was finally realized on April  22, 2016 when the first season of Kashmir Football League kicked off with more than 50 players and four equally balanced teams: Wular Warriors, Jhelum Rangers,  Aharbal Dragons and Gulmarg Leopards.

The league has created a pleasant atmosphere of unity and brotherhood amongst the Kashmiri community across UAE with young and old playing together with passion and competing fiercely for their teams’ victory.  The league has gained tremendous popularity across social media and other channels of communication for the expats in UAE, many participants say that this league is the best two hours of their weekend and they eagerly wait for the weekend not because it is a holiday but because they get to put on their Football studs and be the hero on the pitch while their families endearingly cheer them on from the stands.

There is a unique mix of players across different teams with diverse backgrounds and various age groups. The veterans in their mid 40’s show tremendous leadership by commanding the young & energetic 20 years old boys into various formations and strategies. The athleticism and sportsmanship on display has received massive appreciation from the community and it has become one more reason to feel a sense of pride in collectively being referred to as Kashmiris. Football in Kashmir has definitely come a long way since Tyndale Biscoe introduced the first leather football in early years of 20th century to the current generation which has taken it overseas. The league is blessed with some serious talent too; there are current college team players from different colleges of Dubai, ex-national level players who have played in India and multiple university level players with varying level of accomplishments in football.

The games are played at high tempo and the skills on display are exquisite, however, the most remarkable moments are witnessed after the games as the teams get together and sit across a single table for a post match meal. These are some serious men with serious jobs, sitting besides each other, some rejoicing their goals and celebrating their victories while others contemplating their missed chances and regretting their loss. In the midst of all the enthusiasm and loud discussions of a typical Kashmiri gathering discussing about the beautiful game in their own beautiful language, they forget about their grown up lives and for once they are a bunch of cheerful lads sharing a well earned meal with each other and more importantly sharing an unbreakable bond of being connected back to their roots.

The league is in the middle of its’ first season and with backing of sponsors such as DRE Homes, Stonehouse Real Estate, Location Real Estate and Ottoman International Technologies it is set to become one of the largest overseas sporting event for Kashmiris living in lands far away from home.

For further updates, please follow the Kashmir Football League on their official Facebook page: