By Daanish Bin Nabi for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Most of us live dull, dreary lives. Only the fortunate few are able to live the life of their dreams. Among those lucky ones is, 19-year-old football player-cum-coach, Nadiya Nighat.
She tells Youth Ki Awaaz, “My life is like a dream for me. All I can say is that I am living my dream.”
Nadiya breaks the stereotype that people may have in mind regarding Kashmiri girls. She is a passionate footballer. For her, playing and coaching football is her passion and her life.
Nadiya started playing football when she was ten years old. While she has graduated from high school, she has not taken applied for further studies.
This 19-year-old sleeps, dreams and lives football. She is all praise for her mentor and coach, Mohammad Abudullah. “He has taught me everything I know about football. It was only after his coaching that I decided to play football for the rest of my life,” she says.
The feisty Kashmiri girl competed at the national-level through the Youth Service and Sports, 2010, against the Chandigarh team in Nagrota, Jammu. In 2015, once again, she got a chance to play at the national-level through the Jammu Kashmir Football Association (JKFA).
It is hardly a surprise though, that it took her a while to get her family’s support. Nadia faced stiff opposition from her mother and relatives because of her love for football. She says, “Initially, my mother, relatives and friends did not approve or supported my game. My mom used to say that I am a girl and that it won’t look good if I play football, that too, among boys. But my father convinced everyone at home to support me. Gradually, my mom also started supporting me in my endeavor to excel at football.”
And she laughingly says, “I am my father’s darling boy.”
Relatives and family friends consistently tried to dissuade Nadiya, saying that she has no future in football. After the support of her parents, the encouragement and support she got from the Jammu Kashmir Football Association (JKFA) proved vital for her. She says, “Had JKFA not supported me through my difficult times, I would not have made it to this level.”
Nadiya not only plays football, but is also a qualified coach. She holds the D-License for coaching which is recognised by FIFA, the governing body of international football. Her dream, she says, is to play football and also continue as a Coach.
Right now, Nadiya coaches under-19 players at two clubs. One is exclusively for boys, and the other for girls. There are around 30 boys in JJ7 Club, and 18 girls in Rambagh FC Club.
What does JJ7 stand for? Nadiya says JJ are the initials of her nickname – Jiya Jan. Seven is her jersey number. That is why the boys named her club JJ7.
This young footballer is very enthusiastic when it comes to coaching. “My aim is to excel at football, in addition to giving excellent coaching support to young, upcoming footballers,” she says.
Nadiya coaches students for free. “Passion and money do not go hand-in-hand,” says this devoted footballer. “JJ7, as well as the Rambagh FC Club is free for everyone. My priority is to make these youngsters understand what football is all about. Money always comes second.”
One of her students, Owais Manzoor, has been part of her coaching class for three months. He says that he has learnt good football tricks from Nadiya. “When I saw her for the first time, I was shocked that a girl would coach me. But slowly, I saw how skilfull she is at the game, and I realised that I can learn much from her. It is because of her that I have been selected for Panthchowk Panthers Club,” said Owais.
Nadiya rues the poor infrastructure in football stadiums. She says that the support for the girls club is very poor because of lack of proper infrastructure. Girls do not have proper facilities at the stadium, hence, parents are reluctant to send them for practice.
Nadiya says that while Bakshi Stadium has better infrastructure, it is occupied by the Indian Armed Forces. As a result, girls feel more vulnerable in Bakshi Stadium.
Nadiya fervently hopes that one day, J&K has its own girls team for football.
All sportspersons have their heroes. Nadiya is no different. She says that she is a big fan of Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. “I only wear number 7 jerseys, because so does Ronaldo. I love his moves and his attitude when he comes to the field. I like his passes and free-kicks. I also love Argentine hero Lionel Messi. I love his running and skills.”
These days, Nadiya neither follows the 2016 UEFA European Championship nor Copa America. “Because of Ramzan, I go to bed very early,” she says.
Nadiya’s message to young footballers is to seek excellence in the sport, and keep playing. “In football, the sky is the limit,” she says.