Srinagar: Despite a number of professional football clubs emerging in Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K Bank Football Club continues with its supremacy in the game.
The Bank FC that came into existence in the 90s has always been a dominant force in the local football arena with top quality players at its disposal. And in recent years it has taken its dominance to another level with new professional clubs proving no match to it.
When the Bank FC started its journey it had to compete against the top teams like J&K SRTC, Food and Supplies, J&K Police and Forest FC. Lately those teams have either weakened or are on the verge of shutting down. However, their place has been taken over by the emerging professional clubs like Real Kashmir FC, Lone Star Kashmir FC, J&K PDC, AG’s Office and others.
Despite all the hype around these professional clubs, the statistics show that they are no match to the leading role the J&K Bank FC play in the local football arena.
Since 2017, the J&K Bank FC has been so strong that it has emerged winner in almost all the major tournaments and leagues that have been held across J&K. It has won tournaments both in Kashmir and Jammu divisions and in the process overpowered all the teams that have come its way.
The J&K Bank won the annual football tournament in 2017 with 25 points after winning six matches, drawing two and suffering only one defeat. In the same year it lifted the Mushtaq Memorial Tournament trophy, Christmas Gold Cup, PremNathDogra Cup, Maharaja Hari Singh tournament trophy as well. The only defeat in the year they suffered was in the State championship at the hands of the Real Kashmir FC through penalties.
In 2018, the J&K Bank emerged winners of the Mufti Memorial tournament in Kashmir Division as well as in overall J&K. They remained undefeated in the tournament. They also retained the Mushtaq Memorial tournament title in the same year. In the annual league they were table toppers when it was stopped. In 2019, the annual league couldn’t be held while the J&K Bank went on to win the 2019 and 2020 State championships held in Jammu.
In 2020, the J&K Bank FC was initially abandoned by the bank management owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it was later reinstated following which the team went on to dominate all the events that were going on.
They went on to reach the semi-final of the unfinished Real Kashmir Cup and qualified for the final of the Premier League J&K as well. In the current year, they have already bagged the State championship and Christian Gold Cup titles.
With more than 90 percent of the tournaments since 2017 being won by the J&K Bank, there have to be some solid reasons behind the success. The team is currently helmed by J&K’s only Pro License Professional coach HilalRasoolParray who is being assisted by former J&K Bank skipper Shahnaz, physiotherapist Shanawaz and manager Tariq.
Hilal said the reason for the J&K Bank’s dominance especially during the last four years has been the “foundation” the bank had laid through its academy.
“J&K Bank has played a pivotal role in the development of football and footballers in Jammu and Kashmir over the years. Almost all the players of J&K who have gone to play in I-League or ISL have been part of the J&K Bank,” Hilal told Greater Kashmir. “Not only has it developed football but has also provided better employment opportunities to our talented youth. Hundreds of players have benefited from the J&K Bank football and its employment on the basis of talent.”
About dominating the local football arena in recent times, the former J&K Bank skipper said: “Honestly it is all about basics. The foundation of the team is strong only because of its base. Most of the players currently in the team have come through J&K Bank’s own youth system. The bank created a football academy in 2011 and it has been feeding players to the main team over the years. This has made it stronger. Besides, it has been able to develop footballers from a very young age who in the long run turn into technically sound players who go on to play for the J&K team as well.”
Hilal said the bank management led by its Chairman and Managing Director R K Chhibber has been fully supportive of the football team.
“The Chairman and Managing Director recently interacted with the whole team after it won the J&K football championship. He (Chhibber) hailed the players for their effort and professionalism. He said the bank would extend every help to the team and its management. He also assured to strengthen the bank academy which is crucial for the development of the team and game. Currently our academy is being helmed by two top coaches of J&K, Manzoor Ahmad and Iftikhar,” Hilal said.
Hilal said the bank is going to launch a number of initiatives once the Covid situation improves.
“Apart from exposure tours to playing in outside tournaments, the bank is likely to hold a number of other initiatives soon for the development of football in J&K,” he said.