Octogenarian coach continues to train young footballers in Kashmir

Muhammad Abdullah, a renowned footballer of Kashmir, who trained several international players and served as head coach at the University of Kashmir for 24 years, continues to train young players at the age of 82.

“Among the international players I trained are Bashir Ahmad Beigh, Majeed Ahmad Kakroo, ShafiNari, Farooq Ahmad Bhat and others,” Abdullah, who during his heydays played for J&K SRTC, said.

Abdullah said Jammu & Kashmir was one of the “unfortunate” regions where the sports was not valued by those at helm.

“Look at other states; the sports are flourishing there as the sports-persons are valued. Here we don’t have even grounds and those very few we have are in dilapidated conditions. Even the goal posts are installed in wrong directions on some grounds. This is shameful. It pains me and my contemporaries,” he said.

Abdullah said the sport, especially football, suffered “worse” during the last few years. He said many departments “abolished” the teams and asked the players to work as just employees.

“If such an approach continues, the sports will vanish from J&K,” he lamented.

He said the J&K Sports Council was “duty-bound” to identify and overhaul the grounds and provide infrastructural support to promote sports at the grassroots level in Jammu & Kashmir.

Talking about his sports journey, Abdullah, a resident of Rambagh, Srinagar, said he was the first footballer from Jammu & Kashmir to qualify the one-year course from the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, in 1971.

“It is one of the prestigious courses in sports and very hard to crack. At that time, I was the only player among 15 others from J&K to qualify the NIS course, in football. Another footballer from J&K also passed that year however he had done a 3-month diploma course,” he said.

Abdullah said he started playing football in 1956 while studying at S P School wherein his talent was identified by the Principal, Kashmir Government Polytechnic College, in 1958, who offered him a job at the college.

“At KGPC, there were no sports activities. Being an all-rounder, I started training students in many games and in a couple of years brought out a kind of sports revolution in the college. The Principal then sent me for training to Madras for a year in 1964. After returning, he appointed me as coach till I was transferred to Baramulla Degree College in 1969 for introducing sports there,” he said.

The veteran football coach said that as per the Sports Authority of India, a sportsperson (coach/trainer) who produced at least three international players was recommended for the prestigious Arjuna Award.

“But I was never recommended despite producing eight international players,” Abdullah said. “During my stint as football coach at KU, I have also trained college teams. Even my A S College Academy produced the ones who have played for nationals and brought laurels to J&K.”

The octogenarian coach said the age was no bar for him to train players. “I do it out of my love for football and will continue it till my last breath,” he said.