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J&K is all set to host the first-ever football camp for the national team.

 J&K is all set to host the first-ever football camp for the national team.

Srinagar, 16th July 2023: In what is to be the first of its kind, a new phase is all set to begin in the history of J&K sports with the hosting of a national camp for the under-16 men’s football team in Srinagar. 

Though Santosh Trophy, Federation Cup, and Hero I-League matches have been regularly held in J&K over the years yet a national football camp eluded union territory till now.

Besides hosting of the camp, the other prominent feature is the appointment of chief coach Ishfaq Ahmed, the former international Footballer and a native of J&K. Ishfaq has had many coaching stints in I-League with the likes of Kerala Blasters but the chief coach considers this opportunity as one of the most prized moments of his career. The Under-16 men’s team will participate in the SAFF U-16 Championship scheduled to be held in Bhutan in September this year.

Considering this as one of the great developments of the game, many sports pundits believe the camp shall have a huge impact on the football in J&K.

The Advisor to Lieutenant Governor J&K, Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar said, “It is our endeavor to promote sports in J&K and engage our youth in different sporting activities. Football is very popular among youth in J&K and to encourage our youth further in football we thought it is appropriate to host the national youth team training camp in Srinagar.” I welcome India U-16 national team players to Srinagar and our administration will extend best possible support for the successful hosting of the national camp, he added.

The Secretary, Youth Services and Sports, Sarmad Hafeez said, "It is a great honour for the J&K to host the national U-16 boys’ team coaching camp in Srinagar”. He said that Football has a big fan base in J&K, and our youth will tremendously get motivated to see the national team youth team training in Srinagar and the administration will put all required efforts for football to grow in the region.

The Secretary Sports Council, Nuzhat Gull thanked the administration for the support and for creating an amiable environment to host the first national football camp in J&K. The Sports Council has hosted many important events both national and international included, “I am sure with hosting of national football camp, J&K Sports Council as a premier sporting body will graduate to next level”, Nuzhat Gull added. 

While expressing his deep thanks to the J&K administration, especially the Sports Council for the support, Shaji Prabakaran General Secretary and Administrator said, "AIFF expresses its sincere gratitude and thanks to the J&K administration for hosting India U16 team coaching camp in Srinagar."

The elated head coach, Ishfaq Ahmed said that the hosting of the U-16 camp in Srinagar is a unique move for many reasons. First, we never had an opportunity to hold a National Camp and it is also a fulfillment of the promise by our President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey, and Secretary General Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran, to make the game a pan-India affair.

The former international J&K footballer and technical committee member AIFF, Arun Malhotra said with the Government of J&K providing so much support for the camp, J&K football sees a tangible personal value in contributing to the progress of the sport in the country and I sincerely hope that we emerge as champions in the SAFF U-16 tournament.

Divulging details, Arun said that the team of probable has been shortlisted after extensive scouting in East, West, North, West, and North East zones.

The similarities in the weather conditions between Srinagar and Bhutan also made the case of J&K Sports Council stronger for hosting the national camp.

Meanwhile, Srinagar-based Downtown Heroes FC is all set to play in the prestigious Durand Cup this year.

The idea of the club was conceived by two downtown residents in 2020 to peruse their passion for the game of football and counter the menace of drug addiction by engaging youth in sports.

The duo says that they always felt a deep desire to make a positive impact on society and felt sports could be the catalyzing force to bring about a "change in society", and "empower the youth", besides giving them a "sense of unity and purpose".

Three years since its inception, the Downtown club has shown remarkable progress in carving its niche not only within the football circles J&K but has also featured in I-League second division, and is now all set to participate in the 132nd Durand Cup-2023.

As per founders, almost ninety percent of the club's players come from the local communities of downtown also known as Shehr-i-Khas in local parlance. The very fact that the club has been advocating for constructive things and appealing to youth to shun the path of drugs" has added to the popularity of the club among the masses who feel that the sincerity on the part of the club founders is appreciable. 

The lanky 6.5 feet goalkeeper Muheet Shabir, full back Hyder Yousuf, mid-fielder Shahmeer Tariq, stopper back Zubair Akhoon, and striker Parvaij Bhuiya are some of the core faces of the club who are touted to among the future footballers of the country. The coach of the club, Hilal Parray believes that they have in them to represent the country at the international level.

In the other developments of the day, open selection trials for Pencak Silat were held at Indoor Stadium Pologround Srinagar for the forthcoming 11th Senior National Pencak Silat Championship-2023 being held in Nashik Maharashtra next month.

Around 280 athletes, including both men and women from 15 district units took part in this selection trial, which shall be followed by a coaching camp for 21 days in Srinagar, supported and supervised by the J&K Sports Council.

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