J-K to host first-ever National U-16 Men’s Football Camp

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Football - Student-athlete
Representational Image | Photo: Anil Sharma / Pixabay

SRINAGAR — In a remarkable development for the sports ecosystem of Jammu and Kashmir, a national camp for the U-16 men’s football team is being held in Srinagar for the first time.

The prominent feature of the camp is the appointment of chief coach, Ishfaq Ahmad, son of the soil and former international footballer. 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.

After the national camp, the Under-16 men’s team will participate in the SAFF U-16 Championship scheduled to be held in Bhutan in September this year.

Advisor to Lieutenant Governor J&K, Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, while speaking on this development, said that this first-of-kind National camp will set a new phase in the history of J&K’s sports. He added that in the last few years, with sincere efforts of the government, sports infrastructure has been amplified across Jammu and Kashmir.

The Advisor further congratulated the J&K Sports Council (JKSC) for their multipronged approach of refurbishing the existing sports facilities and simultaneously laying new ones which has paved the way for hosting prestigious events of national importance like this one.

Secretary, Youth Services and Sports (YS&S), 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.”

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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. “Sports Council has hosted many important events both, national and international and I am sure by hosting of national football camp, J&K Sports Council as a premier sporting body will graduate to next level,” Nuzhat Gull said.

While expressing his deep thanks to the J&K administration, especially the Sports Council for the support, General Secretary and Administrator, AIFF, Shaji Prabakaran said, “AIFF expresses its sincere gratitude and thanks to the J&K administration for hosting India U-16 team coaching camp in Srinagar.”

The elated head coach, Ishfaq Ahmad, while speaking on the development, 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 a fulfillment of the promise by our President Kalyan Chaubey, and Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran, to make the game a pan-India affair,” he said.

The former international J&K footballer and technical committee member AIFF, Arun Malhotra said with the support of the J&K Government, J&K football is contributing to the progress of the sport in the country and “we hope that we emerge as champions in the SAFF U-16 tournament.” Giving details about the camp, Arun said that the team of probables has been shortlisted after extensive scouting in East, West, North, West, and North East zones.

Though Jammu and Kashmir hosted Santosh Trophy, Federation Cup, and Hero I-League matches over the years, a national football camp of this magnitude is being held for the first time. 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.

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

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

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 be 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 another development 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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