A 19-year-old girl, Nadiya Nighat from the Rambagh area of Srinagar, has defied stereotypes by becoming Kashmir’s first female football coach.
Nadiya’s association with football goes back to 2007 when she started playing with the boys in her neighbourhood. She was only 10 when she joined the Amar Singh College Academy for football coaching and was the only girl among 47 boys.
Initially, her neighbours and relatives, including her mother, tried hard to get her off the football field and playing with boys, but with her father’s immense support, Nadiya pursued her passion.
“I love playing football. So it doesn’t bother me whether I am playing with boys or girls. Instead I faced many problems in the past. But I concentrate more on the game instead of these issues,” Nadiya told The Legitimate.
With as many as 10 national and state level awards in her kitty, Nadiya presently runs a football academy in Rambagh and trains more than 30 children, including three girls.
But Nadiya is disappointed with the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association.
“Our government football association JKFA comes to schools and encourages us to play football. They show us dreams and when we fall in love with the game and choose it as our career they vanish with their promises,” she said.
According to Nadiya, the main reason why women do not pursue football with a passion is because of the conservative mindset of people around them.
“I started my football career playing with boys, because no girl was allowed by her parents to play football,” she added.
Nadiya is also one of only two female representatives from Kashmir in the Jammu & Kashmir women’s football team for the year 2015/16. Last year, the All India Football Association awarded her with the title of Best ‘Referee’ for boys B-division football organised by the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association.
Nadiya now wants to play football at the international level. She finds her inspiration in football legends Ronaldo and Messi.