Nadiya Nighat is 19. This is the age when sportspersons start making their presence felt in their respective area of interest. This is the age when young talent bursts on to the scene to get attention of the scouts. Particularly in Football, this is the age when a young talent coming through the ranks looks to break into a professional football club.
Nadiya is of a different breed, though. The Rambagh girl has come to the spotlight more for taking plunge into coaching than her playing career. And, hers is a path breaking pursuit. She has many a first to her name thus far. Nadiya is the first and only professional female coach from the conflict hit Kashmir. Hers has been certainly a sports success story that has found many takers, with football pundits in the town hoping Nadiya acts as a harbinger for women football to get lift in this part of the world.
While Nadiya continues to be a player, she is more active in coaching young wards these days. Nadiya has an all-gender football club JJ7 which has already more than 30 aspiring players fine-tuning their skills under her watchful eyes. The Club is stationed at Rambagh, but venue of the training is mostly at Polo Ground. The name of the club derived from Jiya Jan-the name Nadiya is addressed by her friends and relatives and 7 has come from CR7. CR7 is the short name of worlds premier playmaker and Nadiyas favourite player Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nadiya hits the Polo Ground early in the day with her wards who are ever attentive to make most of the tips dished out to them by their coach.
I am quite particular about fitness. In Kashmir skill level isnt a problem but fitness levels are below par. So apart from improving their skill, I make sure players improve upon their fitness which is an important facet of the game, Nadiya told Kashmir Observer.
Nadiya is a D-licensed coach approved by All Indian Football Federation and Jammu and Kashmir Football Association-the custodians of the sport in the state.
I did the course to learn basics of the coaching. It was a learning experience for me. I am thankful to the JKFA for giving me the opportunity to get the course. It has done a world of good for my credentials, says Nadiya.
Coaching isnt the only thing that Nadiya is interested in. The centre forward from Rambagh has done a refereeing course, having already officiated in some games in B-Division League last season.
Nadiya has had a fruitful playing career thus far. She has already made it to the two national events.
Having started as a right winger, Nadiya played her first nationals in 2010 through Youth Services and Sports before doubling it in 2013.
When you get to play outside J&K, you get to know gulf between us and them. They are super fit and have kinds of facilities which obviously makes them good players, she says.
It was in the local Rambagh playfield and Amar Singh College Ground, Nadiya, the player, was made. Just 10 in 2007, Nadiya developed interest in the sport-considered to be a men oriented domain in this part of the world- after seeing her cousins and neighbors play it. She would accompany them to the ground first up for fun, but it soon became passion that translated into Kashmir getting the face of women football.
Her first years didnt yield her support. Her parents were indecisive whether to let their young girl play the sport, but passion of their daughter made them to relent in.
My parents were apprehensive about me playing football as there was no other girl from my area who would play the sport. But after sometime, they realized that I was very passionate about the game and started to support me wholeheartedly, says Nadiya.
Nadiyas first challenge was to train with the boys-which isnt a routine in Kashmir. She would go to Amar Singh College Ground in the mornings to hone her skills under the tutelage of local coach Mohammad Abdullah. She was the only girl among Abdullahs 47 wards.
Abdullah sir was very encouraging. He would make sure I didnt feel left out during the training which made me to put in the hard yards, says Nadiya.
For Nadiya, women football hasnt taken off in Kashmir thanks to a horde of reasons. She reckons lack of infrastructure and attention from the stakeholders was pegging the sport back.
We dont have exclusive grounds for women. There is no concept of exclusive change rooms for girls here which makes it difficult for them to pursue career in football. If you see only one ground-which could have bolstered girls interest in the game-Bakhshi Stadium is being occupied by the forces, she says.
Having a female coach does lure girls to the sport, she says. We need girl physios and trainers. It will really help the women football to grow, says Nadiya.
Nadiya is weaving another dream-to come up with Kashmirs all-female football club. Going by what she has achieved all these years, having a football club for girls should be a reality in days to come.
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