India defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo forms first professional women’s football team in Kashmir

By: Sujata Sarkar
Tiago Ribeiro (blue) of Mumbai City FC and Mehrajuddin Wadoo (white) of Pune City FC in action during ISL match.

Srinagar, Nov 15: Mehrajuddin Wadoo is a popular name in Indian football. The 34-year-old defender has played in the highest level of Indian football for almost two decades.

He has participated in all the premier football clubs in the country, including Kolkata's giants East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.

Presently, for three seasons the defender from Srinagar has placed himself permanently in the Indian Super League (ISL). He will don Mumbai City FC shirts this season in the forthcoming ISL 2017.

But along with building his own career, Mehraj is silently making a revolution in Jammu and Kashmir. His tremendous initiative has helped Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council (JKSC) set up a women’s football team which will be participating in the Indian Women’s Premier Football League (IWL). IWL will be kicked off in Kolhapur in Maharashtra from November 25.

This is going to be the first time when a professional women’s football team from Kashmir will be participating in country’s premier football league that was launched by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) last season.

Mehraj, while speaking from Mumbai, on Tuesday said, “The desire to form a professional women’s football team actually came to my and Sajid Ul Dar’s mind. Sajid was former Indian women’s national team coach. So we contacted Nadiya Nighat, who is the first female licensed football coach in Kashmir. She has been already running camp with female footballers in Srinagar.

"Then we altogether took a drive of trying to convince the families of girls who are passionate about the game to join our venture. We convinced the parents that football will only help the girls to fulfil their passion, but also help them earn a livelihood. Initially, we had to face some stiff obstructions from some of the families. But now the girls are coming gradually.”

JKSC is now having 30 girls where nearly 15 girls have come from Kashmir itself. The remaining footballers have come from Jharkhand, Assam and a few other states. Nadiya, who will be playing in the IWL as the team’s striker, also seems optimistic.

She said, “It's historic. The window has opened. Now we are waiting for state football association to introduce women’s league in Kashmir.”

Story first published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 14:18 [IST]
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