Enthusiasm overshadowed fear in Bangus valley, close to Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, when thousands of people turned up to witness a football match in an area where access is otherwise restricted due to security reasons, reported PTI.

Jammu and Kashmir Football Association held the final match of Bangus Valley Soccer Tournament at Baki Aker ground in Rajwar area of Bangus on September 18 and fans in large numbers gathered at the venue to witness the match played under lights.

From boys aged eight to senior citizens, the crowd enjoyed the hour-long match between Mohammaden Sports Sopore and SW Ashkura Baramulla.

Aijaz Sofi, chief patron DFA Kupwara, said the response of the people was tremendous.

“Not less than 20000 fans had gathered at the venue to witness the match played under lights. The organisers, DFA – a unit of JKFA, had arranged the lights for the match with the help of gensets,” he said. “The fans came on bikes, in cars, trucks, tippers, load carriers and whatever form of transport they could. The festivity in the area made the people of remote area forget about their day-to-day issues for some time,” he added.

From war to football

He said the people of the area have suffered immensely during the last 28 years due to close proximity of the area to the LoC.

“But more than twenty thousand people gathering at one place and that too without any security arrangements in Kashmir these days is an achievement in itself,” said Sofi. “The reality is that Kashmiri youth has abundant talent and can shine like stars, if provided the right opportunities,” he said.

Zamir Thakur, president JKFA, said holding such an event in a remote area near the LoC was possible only due to the wholehearted support of people of Kashmir.

“I, along with the office bearers of JKFA, was present at the venue till 11:30 in the evening and I did not feel that this place is close to the LoC,” said Thakur. “Such was the enthusiasm of the football fans that for a moment we forgot whether we are near border or in Srinagar,” he said.

Thakur, who is also treasurer of All India Football Federation (AIFF), said many such events are lined up in the other remote areas of the state.

“We want to take the game of football to every remote corner of the state as it is poor man’s game. However, for that government needs to develop infrastructure in remote areas,” he said.