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Bend It Like Sahishta in the Hijaab

Kashmir is a region of unmatched beauty. The valley’s breathtaking serenity attracts thousands of tourists every year. Saddeningly, it is also marred by frequent violence due to conflict and militancy.

Muslim-dominated and conservative Kashmiri society has tried to shield itself from Western liberalism but the situation is changing. It’s also gradually changing for women. Some young girls are now openly able to say that they want to play football professionally. Their passion is quite visible when they play and their and their determination is clear from the clothing they are willing to wear. Being aware of the traditional mindset of society, they have chosen the path of least friction. They cover themselves completely and wear the hijab.

A few years ago, some of these girls could only have dreamt of playing football. But the success of Afshan Ashiq in the Indian women’s football league has opened up new opportunities for aspiring female football players.

Sahishta is a member of the State Football Association (SFA) Women’s team to which some 40 girls are affiliated. She is currently studying in college but she wants to be a professional footballer. She told DW that there was a time when parents would not allow girls to play football but since Afshan’s success many have changed their attitude.

Nadiya Nikhat who is a trainer for the SFA Women’s team says that this is not always the case and it’s hard work. “We have to motivate the parents. Once the girls start to come on the ground, the real task starts.”

“Just for the comfort of families and the society, we have made some clothing rules for women players. They have to wear hijab and slax pants whenever they play under the SFA.”

On condition of anonymity, another player told DW: “If we stop wearing the hijab then people will start gossiping, considering us women of bad character. So if we want to play our game without interruptions, hijab and full cover clothing are the only way.”

But clothing is not the only factor says Nikhat: “The boys are physically stronger than the girls. Their fitness levels are far better. During training, it’s easier for the boys to follow instructions. Whereas, in the case of girls, we have to start everything from scratch.”

“At first when I went out in track pants, people started staring at me,” recalled another football trainer from Ladakh. “I found it awkward. Players were also shy. They had a sense of inferiority and felt lesser than others.”

It is an upward struggle for female football players in Kashmir but the hope remains that the next Afshan Ashiq might be from this beautiful region.

 

Author: Apoorva Agrawal (act)

 

Date

21.09.2018 | 13:53

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