Hockey, the national game of India, was lagging behind in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the game is steadily seeing a revival and Valley’s women athletes are increasingly pacing up its resurgence.  

For the past several decades, youngsters either would choose to be professional cricketers or footballers besides other martial art sports. The government of Jammu and Kashmir is reviving hockey sport, by building new astro turfs and infrastructure for hockey at various places in the UT. With this move of J&K admin, more Kashmiri women are coming into the sport, seeing the future of hockey bright in the valley.

In a chat with Rising Kashmir some of the star women hockey players of the Himalayan region, who have made their name in the national arena, talk about their passion and how they see the game shaping up in Kashmir.

Reebu Hassan

Twenty-three-year-old Reebu Hassan is one of the national hockey players of J&K and a coach as well.

Hassan has been into hockey since 2014, as she always aspired to excel in sports when most of her contemporaries would do otherwise. Despite challenges, she didn’t shift from the field and played sports like judo, carom, boxing, ball hockey, floor ball, Kabaddi, cricket, and football.

Hailing from the Lasjan area of Srinagar outskirts, Reebu is pursuing her bachelor’s degree from women’s college M.A road Srinagar.

She claims that she is the only hockey coach from the Kashmir division.

Among all the sports she played, she chose to get professional hockey training. “I have pursued a sports course from National Institute of Sports (NIS) Patiala wherein my specialization was hockey.”

Not only did she shine in various types of sports but trained others to propel them to push the limits and aim higher in life.   

The 23-year-old has been appointed as a hockey coach by the Jammu and Kashmir sports council recently.

Reebu believes that it is important to carry a professional degree or a course certificate to be a coach or a guide for sportspersons.

She has recently completed her graduation and has shifted to frontier district Kupwara to train the local hockey players of the area.

“I have played four national senior-level hockey championships so far. In fact, I am the only coach among both boys and girls from Kashmir who has played more than two senior level hockey tournaments at the national level,” she claims.

For her efforts, she was felicitated with scores of awards like the Women Empowerment Award and National Sports Award which was presented by the National Sports and Physical Fitness Board of India.

Inayat Farooq

Inayat Farooq, the two-time senior national player, started her journey in the sport in 2015.

The 21-year- old Farooq, who hails from the Kralpora area in the Budgam district is currently serving as Physical Education Teacher at Iqbal Memorial School Bemina in Srinagar. She tried other games as well but found her heart stuck in the hockey stick.

She says that she played her first senior national in Bangalore in 2016. In 2017 she got selected for a certificate course under Prime Minister’s special package in the health and fitness category by the Sports Authority of India (SIA) NS, NIS Patiala.

 “Soon after completion of the course, the Jammu Kashmir Sports Council appointed me as a fitness trainer in Bakshi Stadium Srinagar on a contractual basis,” she says.

In 2018 she played her 2nd senior national hockey held in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

“Besides I have played many hockey tournaments like 7-a-side, 5-a-side in Kashmir and under my captaincy team always won the title,” she said.

Farooq said she also played in the All India Inter university judo championship in Chandigarh through the University of Kashmir.

“I played many sports like Kho Kho, martial art, yoga, shooting ball, floorball, hockey, etc.,” she says.

Inayat considers her lucky for having the back of her father who would support her through thick and thin.

“Initially parents opposed me for choosing hockey as a career for being the sports injury prone, but they gradually started supporting me,” she says, and adds, “My parents especially my father supported me despite societal pressure. He provided me with all possible facilities and support,” she says.

Farooq says that though the government has built turfs at many places players need professional coaches to improve their skills.

She gives credit for her success to coach, J S Mehta, H.O.D Physical Department Women’s College M.A road Srinagar, Satinder Singh retired Chief hockey coach J&K.

“I want to represent India and be a female coach of J&K and the best player of J&K.”

Sharing her viewpoint on the revival of hockey sport in J&K, she says when she started playing hockey nobody was interested in it but after the developmental initiative taken by the government, more players have come forward to choose the sport.

Nadiya Hilal

Nadiya Hilal, 25, from Aribagh Kanipora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, graduated in Arts from Women’s College M.A road Srinagar. She started holding a hockey stick in 2017 after getting inspired and motivated by Coach JS Mehta.

She says she has played several hockey tournaments including state and national tournaments.

She would play with boys to practice at Amar Singh College Kashmir Hockey Academy where coach Gurpreet would train her.

“I played my senior national in Hisar Haryana, 2019 and chancellor trophy and other several tournaments,”  

Nadiya dreams of becoming a national coach and wants to be known by her trainees.

“I want to coach my Kashmiri fellows so that I would be known by them while representing the country in the international arena which I feel would be a great achievement in itself,” she says.

Sharing her experience with regard to the revival of hockey in the valley, she says that hockey in the valley is in the revival phase and needs further encouragement.

“I believe hockey sport must be given the requisite boost in Kashmir so that more youngsters can be attracted to this beautiful game,” she says.

She says when she started to play she had to play on natural grass but now the scenario has changed with the availability of infrastructure especially turfs.

“I hope with facilities of Astro turfs more children would enjoy hockey games, parents would understand hockey after watching how the game is being played which eventually would benefit hockey,” he says.

She says now they have fiber sticks, a sufficient number of grounds available, and will have coaching camps which she believes will inspire many budding players to hockey.

Secretary Youth Services & Sports Department, Sarmad Hafeez said that the department will come up with six new hockey turfs in Jammu and Kashmir.

He added that earlier the UT had only Hakkhu stadium hockey turf, now six new hockey turf fields are coming up.

“Two of the stadiums are ready for inauguration and will be inaugurated soon, in Pulwama, and in Poonch,” he said.

“J&K will be able to produce many national stars which will help our youth to grow,” he said.

“Besides normal hockey grounds we are going to build Astro hockey turf grounds at several places in UT,” he said.

Nuzhat Gull, Secretary J&K Sports Council while sharing the details of steps taken for the revival of hockey in J&K said “there is no doubt that hockey was lagging behind in J&K in the past. But, the J&K Sports Council has taken several steps for the revival of the game in J&K.

She said their primary focus is to provide infrastructure for hockey players.

“Sports Council has started working in this direction. We have finished around 90 percent of work by building an astro turf in Pologround and 80-90 percent work is done on a project in Amar Singh College,” she informed.

“We are looking for land for the turf in Baramulla district as well,” she said.

She added that building turf and infrastructure is important for the revival of the game but coaching budding and talented hockey players is as important as infrastructure.

“For that Hockey Association of J&K is organizing camps in different districts to conduct talent hunt programmes, stretching to around one month where the council is providing them with equipment and other facilities in this endeavour,” she said.  

 “Department has been directed to make two to three teams in every district who would receive proper training so that we could come up with two to three such teams in every district which would take the shape of professional sport in UT,” she said.

Regarding the appointment of hockey coaches, Gull said “we have opened Khelo India centers in Poonch, Kulangam, and are looking for coaches through the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.