Lost in the smoke and mirrors, fumes and noise around the Kashmir Files, Indian football re-opened a very different Kashmir file after more than a decade. In the India team against Bahrain away on Tuesday night – 1-1 till the 88th minute, the visitors, lost 2-1 – was midfielder Danish Farooq Bhat. Of Bengaluru FC (BFC) and Srinagar, the first from the Valley, after Mehrajuddin Wadoo, to play for India.
The Indian team’s first Kashmiri footballer, Abdul Majeed Kakroo, in fact captained the 1987 Nehru Cup squad, which never mind improbable will also be considered downright untenable today. Like Wadoo’s 2005 SAFF Championship goal against Bangladesh in the final in Karachi. Capped 30 times (last match 2011) Wadoo and contemporary India under-23 winger Ishfaq Ahmed left the Valley in the early 2000s to pursue successful pro-careers. Until Danish on Tuesday night, for Kashmir football, it had been, to use a completely twisted metaphor, a long time between drinks.
Danish has virtually climbed onto the radar of notice after his impressive, assured debut Indian Super League (ISL) season for BFC. Ishfaq, assistant coach of ISL finalists Kerala Blasters, calls Danish’s ascension “the perfect time for him to replace us, Mehraj and me.” He laughs, “I mean we’re still around, but a new, younger generation should look up to Danish, as to how he has worked … this is only his first season of him. The more he plays the more he will mature, improve – it will be better for Indian football and Kashmir will have a new role model. “
& lt; strong & gt; ALSO READ | & lt; / strong & gt;Real Kashmir star Danish Farooq eyes India berth
Supporting Danish’s team
In 2018, Danish was the leading on-field protagonist in the most romantic story to come out of Kashmir in a while. Real Kashmir FC (RKFC), a team co-owned by a Kashmiri Pandit Sandeep Chattoo and a Kashmiri Muslim Shamim Meraj, became the first team from the Valley to qualify for the I-League first division. At the time, the I-League was India’s foremost league competition, even if considered country cousin to cityslicker ISL. Since those heady RKFC days, the owners have parted ways, Chattoo is now in full control of RKFC, Jammu & Kashmir has lost its statehood and is now a union territory with a perilously rocky security situation and a downslide into the social tension of the 90s .
In conflict zones, which Kashmir is, sport provides escape plus a connect into a wider external collective. Danish’s former RKFC teammate Khalid Qayoom says, “Because of Danish, all Kashmiris were supporting BFC. At the ground yesterday, an elderly person told Danish’s father, we pray all the time whenever he steps on the field. Kids are thrilled that he will play for the Indian team. “
During Wadoo and Ishfaq’s careers no matter what the Valley’s relationship was with the State, there was no hostility against their ambitions for Indian colors. In 2018 while following RKFC for ESPN, every Kashmiri player’s answer about what they wanted from football was identical: play for best clubs in the country, at its highest level in the glitz of the ISL, and “India khelna.” Despite the lure of IPL lucre, it is football that still courses through Kashmir, in the blood and in the air.
Ishfaq says, “We were appreciated, there was no backlash, it will be the same for Danish. He is overall Kashmiri and every Kashmiri who achieves any feat is appreciated by everyone. Everyone. ” For the Valley’s young players, Danish is today’s north star, having taken the very footsteps that they now walk in. The fourth of six children, and the only boy in a family of competitive footballers, Danish grew up in the densely-packed Sakidafar neighborhood in what is called Srinagar’s “downtown.” His father di lui Farooq “Bhulla” Ahmed, who works in the transport department, played for the state, Mohammedan Sporting and local clubs. In 2018, Danish’s grandfather Mohammed Ali, recalled his grandfather di lui playing club football on the sprawling Eidgah maidan, walking distance from their home di lui.
Danish was picked for the J&K Bank Academy at 14, senior debut at 16, and later team captain. He turned down the chance to play in reserves for BFC and Delhi and stuck with RKFC across two dream seasons, 2018-19 and 2019-20. When BFC called again, Danish chose to go and almost magically, fitted into ISL. BFC coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, formerly technical director of Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt, said that in Germany, he would be called a Mercedes. “Not just any Mercedes, a Mercedes diesel. He just keeps running and he has the quality to score goals. ” The hardy, relentless, reliable kind who once on the go, will not stop.
With BFC, Danish bulldozed his way into a quality midfield; he is not bulldozer material, deceptively slight frame across 6ft1, but with the tensile strength of a steel cable. Ishfaq says, “he has power and speed, which we get very less in India, Danish has been a real light, to show we can produce physically fast and strong players.”
Danish was a hotel neighbor to BFC media manager Kunaal Majgaonkar during an unending bubble. All Majgaonkar saw indoors was the soft-spoken, unfailingly polite Bhat Sahab (his nickname di lui from younger teammates). “He’s quiet, hair combed, hair and beard game always on point, he doesn’t look like a hustler.” But on the pitch the hustler, the beast competitor, the mongrel tackler appears, like all it’s taken is putting on a new suit of clothes.
With BFC trying to find its way back to the glory days, a churning in the ranks, Danish was always going to get a look-in. When he did, he made sure everyone kept looking. “The way he adapted, it almost felt like he had been playing forever,” Majgaonkar says, remarkable given where he had come from. From the I League, Danish had to stamp his presence di lui alongside not just the cream of Indian footballing talent, but ISL’s foreign players with higher-quality defenders. “That’s battling through two hard levels up from where he’d been playing until now.”
It should require a great leap, from setting aside the awe, soaking in the information and translating it in a game. Danish was to mark himself down as the money in bank pro, solid, dependable, scoring three goals and winning a player-of-the-match award. As if no leap was really required. The ISL was just another stair behind a newly-opened door – all Danish had to do was take the first step.
At a time like this and from a place like that, to retrofit a young Kashmiri football player as a beacon or a symbol of anything is bogus. When Danish Farooq Bhat turned out for India, all you could do was to choose whether to laugh or to cry.