Unrest. Turmoil. Tension. Protests.
This is what one normally hears when it comes to the valley. But lesser do they know that the forces trying to dominate evil over good are never stronger than the ones who do the opposite. New Age Kashmir is one such platform where we bring the real essence of what the valley carries and this picture, believe me, is ethereal.
Today, we have a unique story of how a group of girls under the sky when wrap themselves in dedication, hard work, perseverance and talent break all odds and win over stereotypes. We are talking about the girls Rugby team of Jammu and Kashmir who have been in the news for their miraculous victories and unbending attitude towards anyone who has tried to stop them.
When Irfan Aziz Botta, a Srinagar-based industrialist took the decision of introducing rugby to the state, everything went smoothly. He contacted the Indian Olympic Association that organised a camp at Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar in 2004. But hardly any women participated back then. But today, 4000 girls in the state have enrolled for the game with the State Sports Council.
The fearless, bold women from Kashmir are defying all odds and coming out to play rugby in the Gindun Sports stadium, every Sunday, without fail, to follow their passion and make a name for themselves and the state. They fight everything including the fear of what is happening on the streets, to play for their state. And their efforts are finally paying off. The State’s Women’s Rugby team won the 3rd National Snow Rugby Championship held in Gulmarg recently.
Once considered to be a man’s game, rugby is exponentially gaining popularity amongst young women in the valley. The girls’ team played their first competitive game in 2006 but who could have thought that eleven years later, these rugby players from Kashmir will play at national and international levels.
Salihah Yusuf, captain of the team, narrates her story saying her PT teacher pushed her to participate when Botta went to her school for a training camp since she was active in the school’s sports circuit. And now she says “I am glad she did it, because I live for the game now!” Such is the journey these women have travelled.
Different faces, different circumstances, different stories, different cultures but one spirit of Rugby keeps them unwavered and unstoppable. While some were asked to quit because of studies, others were not allowed to travel outside the state, some were even dissuaded on the grounds of being a girl but as they say “There is no force equal to that of a determined woman”, they had chosen their path.
These girls have been breaking stereotypes around the women of Kashmir. They are not shy. They are bold. They are women with ambition. They are highly motivated by their want of making Kashmir proud.
And when asked where do they see themselves in five years from now? They all echoed the same thought…
Representing India in international rugby matches.
Kashmir’s rugby team has received a lot of support from several quarters. Looking at their determination former Sri Lankan rugby captain and Member of Parliament, Namal Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka have come to help teach them the tricks of this game.