How Night Football In Jammu And Kashmir Is Bringing Relief To Sports Lovers Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
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With Jammu and Kashmir heading towards one year of coronavirus lockdown, many football fans have taken up the initiative of organising night football for the youth
Azhar Teli passes the ball to Mehraj Ahmad. Mehraj moves it closer to the goal area. Three Iqbal Hygam FC opponents tail him. The playground is filled with cheers for Mehraj, "Go Mehraj Go!". Mehraj takes a second touch and scores a goal for Amberpora FC within 10 minutes of the first half. The 2,000-odd spectators burst into cheers, jumping, and dancing.

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With the sunset in the Hygam area of North Kashmir's Baramulla district, hundreds of young men and boys from across the region could be seen running towards a football field in the periphery of the town. They spend at least two hours at this field under floodlights. Since early June, the area has hosted the 16-team, 7-a-7 side 'Fifa Super Cup – under lights'.

As Kashmir heads towards one year of lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370 from the Indian constitution, imposed in August last year, many have become victims of depression due to continuous violence in the state. As a respite, many football lovers in the Hygam area of North Kashmir's Baramulla district, have taken up the initiative of organising night football for the youth.

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For people in Kashmir, where life is strained by heavy troop presence and an armed insurgency, watching and playing football is more than a source of entertainment or "time pass". It offers an escape from the grinding reality of everyday life in the Valley.

The locals in the area have joined hands and contributed money from their own pockets to set-up high-voltage floodlights. Credit: Aaqib Fayaz

Kashmir's love for football is well known. It is not uncommon to see boys and girls dribbling the ball, rather than hitting it with a bat—preferred in many parts of the country—in the nooks and crannies of the Valley. Elders share tales of how they would climb the tall chinar trees around stadiums to watch matches in the 1980s and '90s…
Aaqib Fayaz
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