THE divided state of Kashmir will now have an international football representation in Bradford.
This news comes as the Bradford-based Kashmir Football Association have been accepted as a member of the World Unity Football Alliance (WUFA).
The Kashmir Football Association is being supported by the Bradford-based Athletico Sports Foundation, who will help promote the mission of the WUFA and its aim of open and accessible football participation for all.
The Kashmir Football Association embodies the principles of empathy, inclusion, equity, fair play, and respect for universal human rights.
They plan to host regular events to bring attention to the important work and activities that the WUFA undertakes and the matches it facilitates, in particular the role football plays in bringing communities together and overcoming differences.
Throughout the UK and here in Bradford there is a large Kashmiri community, many emigrating from the contested territory that was once their home.
Leaving behind the geopolitics of the region, the military presence on the streets, the barbed wire that lines the checkpoints and the difficulties that come with everyday life in Kashmir.
Even simple things that we often taken for granted, such as having a local football team, are difficult.
This is because the region has been split between different countries and so organising a football league becomes an issue concerning international politics.
Satnam Singh, chairman of Athletico Sports Foundation, said “The Kashmir Football Association is more than just a football team, the aim is to raise awareness of the history and modern-day realities of Kashmir.
“As with other teams that are members of WUFA, the Kashmir Football Association hope that the matches will bring attention to Kashmiri populations and identities that come from regions that lack recognition both nationally and internationally.”
Mohammad Yaqoob, founder and vice-chairman of the Kashmir Football Association, said that one of the objectives of setting up the association is that “Kashmiris all have a story to tell. We’re not sending a political message but we’re trying to tell our stories.
“The people of Kashmir think of themselves as Kashmiri,” said Mr Yaqoob, who said that India, Pakistan and China all have sections of the territory.
Mr Yaqoob said that people from those three areas of Kashmir are represented on the association’s committee.
The Kashmir Football Association will include both a male and a female team to take part in the international tournaments that the World Unity Football Association organises.
“This is an international stage and a lot of people and sponsors will want to get involved,” added Mr Yaqoob, who said Bradford has a lot of people who have Kashmiri heritage.
“That is a large pool of players and we’ll get the best players of a Kashmiri heritage.”
He said association is hoping to start playing friendlies in Bradford starting in September and they are aiming to take part in an eight-team woman’s international tournament in Surrey next summer.