Last year, Afshan Ashiq's picture as an angry Kashmiri girl pelting stones at the J&K police got her into national media spotlight, more so after it was discovered that she was an avid footballer. That picture, Afshan now says, not just turned around her sporting career but also helped introduce many young Kashmiri girls to what was hitherto a male-dominated sport.

The photograph got her "noticed" as the "Kashmiri footballer forced to vent her ire by pelting stones". Meetings with J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti followed, who decided to do her bit to promote both Afshan and woman's football in J&K.

Afshan is now captain and goalkeeper of the J&K women's football team that is getting exposure at the national level and competing in the Indian Women's League. The 23-year-old also plays for a Mumbai club and has even inspired a Bollywood biopic on her life.

On Tuesday, Afshan along with her 22-member football team, coach Satpal Singh Kala and manager Tsering Angmo called on Union home minister Rajnath Singh. Afshan told  that she sought the home minister's intervention to start a Sports Authority of India (SAI) Institute in Kashmir to nourish and train young girls to play football.

"I was impressed by how patiently a Union minister heard the issues raised by us. We sought better sports infrastructure in J&K. The home minister called up J&K CM in front of us and told her to meet us when we get back to Srinagar," Afshan told.

Mehbooba, she said, was already supporting them in a big way and had instructed the sports secretary to take care of the requirements of the women's football team. The state administration has since provided us all our sports equipment, helping us put together a team within this year.


"While I have joined a Mumbai football club to pursue my dream to be a national-level player, it is my honour to also captain the J&K women's football team," said Afshan.


The team amply reflects the regional diversity of J&K. While the manager is a Ladakhi, the coach is a Sikh. The team members too hail from all three regions of the state.

Asked if she regretted the stone-pelting incident, Afshan said it was a one-off reaction triggered by her "anger" at the abusive language used by a J&K cop as well as the alleged "slapping" of a team member she was escorting to the football ground at the time. "I don't regret anything. I would not have picked up a stone had it not been for the misbehaviour of the police," she insisted.


"But now I have a reputation and image to maintain. I want to focus on football and make my state and nation proud," she added.

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