Two Kashmiri footballers Syed Zahid Hussain Bukhari and Sajad Hussain Parray are jubilant to represent India at South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under-20 championship scheduled to be played at Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

The SAFF U-20 Championship will commence on July 25, with the final set to take place on August 5, 2022. A total of five teams are set to participate in the SAFF U-20 Championship- Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and hosts India, will lock horns with each other to lift the title.

The Kashmiri duo is part of the India U-20 National team of 23 players who were recently selected for the said championship. Team India shall play its first match against Bangladesh at Kalinga Stadium on July 27.

Syed Zahid Hussain Bukhari hails from Natipora while Sajad Hussain Parray is a resident in Gund Hasibhat Lawaypora area of Srinagar.

Syed Zahid Hussain Bukhari, the goalkeeper of the team, told Rising Kashmir that they are excited to represent the country in this international championship and are hopeful to make the people of J&K proud.

“Our team is motivated to perform well in this championship as the team knows the importance of the SAFF championship not only at continental level but far ahead, a good platform for the preparation for advanced championships,” he said.

India U-20 side has competed in Hero I-League and IFA Shield over the last two seasons, with most of the players from Indian Arrows.

The U-20 boys shall be playing the AFC U20 Championship Qualifiers in September where it is drawn in Group H alongside Australia, Kuwait, and host Iraq.

The 19-year-old goalkeeper \says that he developed an inclination towards the game at the age of 15 after watching some of the local footballers playing at his native place in Haranambal ground.

“Soon after finding the game interesting and fascinating, I initially joined the Natipora football academy and later joined state football academy(SFA), where I was groomed by coach Sajid Yusuf Dar. I was also associated with Real Kashmir FC and represented the club at various state and national level competitions,” he said.

Upon being asked why he chose to be goalkeeper, he said that good jumping ability, fantastic coordination, excellent distribution, solid catching, wonderful agility, strong punching, and fast reflexes prompted him to become a goalkeeper.

“Half of the battle is won by just having better communication with teammates on the ground. A goalkeeper can establish that environment within the goal area and beyond.”

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