Danish Farooq

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As in 2018, Sept

Hindol Basu, This ‘Kashmiri Ronaldo’ trains under shadow of guns, curfew, October 12, 2018: The Times of India

Striker Danish Farooq Has Been Instrumental In Real Kashmir FC’s Rise To I-League, October 12, 2018: The Times of India

Logon ko batana chahte hai ki hum bhi acche insaan hai (We want to tell the country that we are also good human beings). We have been portrayed wrongly over the years and that needs to change. Playing for Real Kashmir in the I-League is a massive opportunity for us,” says Danish.

His father, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, also used to play football, for Mohammedan Sporting in Kolkata. Talking about his sporting lineage and progress, Danish says, “Football is in my blood. We have had a good footballing culture in our family. I imitated my father and started playing from my childhood. I was selected in J&K Bank football academy at the age of 13. Then I played for the bank team and became their captain. After that I played for Lonestar Kashmir FC and from late 2016 I started playing for Real Kashmir.”

Danish feels football, which is a hugely popular sport in Kashmir, is helping youngsters join the mainstream. “Young players are being given a platform. Parents are also told that football is a viable career option and that has helped getting the youth into the mainstream.”

Danish Farooq will never forget the day he was detained by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commandos while on his way to the TRC Turf Ground in Srinagar for a practice session. His pleas fell on deaf ears. He tried to reason, but to no avail. It was only when a senior officer — who knew Danish had been a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Santosh Trophy team — intervened that the footballer was released. “That day is still etched in my mind. Thankfully, the senior officer knew about Santosh Trophy and that I had represented J&K in it,” says the 22-year-old, a resident of Eidgah in downtown Srinagar.

Danish, incidentally, has been given the moniker ‘Kashmiri Ronaldo’ by fellow footballers and fans. It’s not just his looks or hairstyle, but his dribbling skills and goal-scoring abilities that have earned him the sobriquet. Danish, an attacking midfielder, stands 6-feet-1-inch tall; and whenever he has a ball at his feet, he shows his ‘Cristiano skills’. “My teammates love my dribbling abilities. They call them Cristiano skills,” quips Danish with a glint in his eye.

With four strikes, Danish was the joint-highest goal-scorer for Real Kashmir FC in the I-League second division. Real Kashmir will be making their debut in the I-League top division in the forthcoming season. Besides the goals, he had the most number of assists to his name. Danish is more or less the engine which keeps Real Kashmir functioning.

In a place where curfews are a common ocurrence, Danish and his teammates have to struggle to get quality practicesessions. “ Aapke Delhi mein jaise jam hota hai, waise hi humare yahan curfew hota hai (The way Delhi has traffic jams; Srinagar has curfews),” says Danish, bursting into laughter.

In Srinagar, gun-totting commandos can be seen all over the city — unbelievably, there is a commnado in place for every fourth civilian. “It is not only difficult for footballers here, but for every person – any profession. We take different routes whenever there is a curfew in place. By now, we know which routes to take to reach the ground during a curfew. We reach the ground some way or the other, but we don’t miss a practice session. It’s only few and far between that we get to practice; therefore, we make sure that we don’t miss a session,” says Danish, himself a massive Cristiano Ronaldo fan.

Danish hopes to show the world there is more to Kashmir than guns and violence. “We want to leave a big impression (in the I-League) through the brand of football that we play. We want to show that there is more to Kashmir than guns and bombs. Lo-

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