The 2014 floods left a scar on every Kashmiri , crashing the financial market. One such person was Irfan, owner of a small garments store in Chassbal area. He was working day and night to support his family and was making steady progress. During the floods , all that he built was lost in a blink of an eye. Devastated by this catastrophe , he had to look for new avenues to provide for his family. This led to a move to Dubai . Being a hardworking person, he landed a job and slowly started to grow. Having no connections in Dubai, Irfan lived a solitary life which revolved around his work and providing for his family , leading to stress and longing for his home. It was at this point that he came across a facebook page “Kashmir Football League”. From here on, Dubai became his second home.
The group initially comprised of six young men working in Dubai for recreational purposes but it has grown up to be much more. Kashmiris from all sectors and communities were welcomed in the group leading to growth in numbers. It became a second family for many. The players playing were in all ranges of age from 18-year-old Salman , an engineering student to 50 plus Aijaz working as a chief engineer.
”It’s probably the biggest stress buster for me. To play with people who are from my community , to eat with them every Friday and to help the newcomers in any way that I could, makes me extremely happy” says Ozair , a 30 year old professional in working in Dubai.
Not only do the members play football , the group also acts as the learning platform for the young generation of Kashmiris. The young men starting their careers are mentored and guided by the veterans. After the game on Fridays, all the members have breakfast together and generally pray jummah together.
”There is genuine brotherhood in the group. Everyone is helping each other. Many people are starting new here and away from the family for the first time. Now they have a family. Football unites us in a way that nothing else can. The power of sports is truly amazing” says Owais Baba, one of the founding members.
This group of men recently brought together the alumni of two of the biggest schools of Kashmir , Burn Hall, and Tyndale Biscoe and created a massive event which also became a social get together for many Kashmiris in Dubai. Inayat Fazili , Mudasir Mubarak and Khalid Wani, senior members of the group have also organized cultural events like ”Panun Saaz” , ”Soz Boz” etc to promote Kashmiri languages and bringing together Kashmiris in UAE as one family. The same group of people were involved actively to collect flood relief and send support when tragedy struck their homeland.
”They are all great people , makes me feel immensely happy to be with them. I have played regularly since I was a young boy in Kashmir , England and now Dubai. But playing with them is different , it is happiness . It is like going back to school days’’ Says Shoaib , one of the senior members of the group.
The positivity and enthusiasm surrounding the group which grew from 7 to 120 in a span of 6 months caught the attention of Kashmiri businessmen and entrepreneurs operating in UAE. To support their community Moin Qazi (Stone House Real Estate) , Hamzah Zehgeer (Ottomans International technology) , Mudasir Ali Shah (The Location) and Mudasir Wani (Dre Homes) came together to give the group a direction. They decided to sponsor the ground fee , uniforms , travel expenses and breakfast for all the members and the group formulated a competitive competition and named it Kashmir Football League.
The initial members Zain Pandit, Owais Baba, Usman Rufai, Zayd , Jibran , Adeel and Mujtaba are extremely proud of how a small initiative taken by them has grown and is now a trend being followed by cricket leagues on the same lines.
”We never imagined that football will become a medium bringing Kashmiris together on such large scale. We feel happy and are working on more ideas to benefit our community” says Zain, as the members plan their next step to do their bit for Kashmir.
The first season of KFL is currently underway.