SRINAGAR: Not far from the Friday rush at the Hazratbal shrine, Qudsiya Altaf, 23, adjusts her bright red cap on the lush green fields of Kashmir University. With six footballs at her pair of shuffling soccer cleats, she rattles off names as she essays the kicks.
“Haider, Ilyas, Faizan, yahan aajao beta. Thoda gap rakho. Warm up. Fir at least five times pass karo,” Qudsia says, almost perfunctorily. That has been her routine between 3:30pm to 6:30pm everyday for the past few months.
Last year, when the valley was teeming with youthful protesters over clashes between security forces and stone pelters following Burhani Wani’s killing, Qudsia left her civil engineering dream to do her bit: apply salve on a distressed people.
She then enrolled at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala to train herself as a football coach, a sport she has loved and played since 2007. With a regret that she could never represent India despite playing at district and state levels, Qudsia now wants to take her football team to an international soccer event.
“My dream is to see that these boys represent India at international events. I want to wean them away from guns, stone pelting, drugs and smoking. There’s a bright chance for them to make their country proud,” Qudsia tells TOI.
There were at least three dozen stone pelters who had flocked to her in the initial days.
“They are all good and reformed people who come to me now. They want to do well for India,” she said.
She has decided to keep her academic pursuits with another bachelors degree in interior designing, and is thrilled with her new job as a coach at J&K State Sports Council.
As part of her new sports policy, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has taken Qudsia as football coach for under-14 and under-17 for girls and boys. Since April this year, she is being paid 5,000 per month as a coach.
Qudsia is part of 198 such coaches for different sports such as athletics, hockey, volleyball, basketball, being recruited as part of agreement between the state government and the Centre under Prime Minister’s special package of Khelo India programme.
Seeing Altaf’s success, the sports council has identified 200 stone pelters and decided to teach them football on local playgrounds.
Being a girl, Qudsia knows the perils of breaking the glass ceiling. But she is ready to take on the challenges. She shrugs off comments from orthodox Muslims over hijab or her t-shirt and arm bands.
“I am a disciplined coach. I am glad that my father, who taught me mountaineering, has fully supported me. I will fulfil my responsibilities. I speak to these young footballers strictly in Urdu or English. They respect me and win rewards when they play good or win local championships,” Qudsia said.
Courtesy : Times of India