New Delhi [India]: The sight of packed stands with snow-clad trees in the background, overlooked by the gargantuan Himalayan peaks have become synonymous with I-League this season in Kashmir.
Not too far away from the TRC Ground, where Real Kashmir play their football, the children of Jammu and Kashmir have taken to the football fever, coming in hordes to feed their addiction.
Baby Leagues have become the new rage in the state–so much so that neither have the children been deterred by the cold nor have their parents stopped them from playing the beautiful game.
As many as three Baby Leagues are going on despite the heavy snowfall in the region–Kashmir United Baby League (Srinagar), Snow Etihad Baby League (Pulwama), and Ladakh Baby League (Leh).
“The Baby Leagues in Kashmir have really helped kids get more involved in the sport in recent times. For me, the bigger thing is that football helps the children stay involved in an activity that they like, and keeps them away from drugs and other social evils,” said All India Football Federation (AIFF) Regional Development Officer Bilal Ahmed Punjabi.
Punjabi believes that such leagues have helped the children of the state get a mode of physical exercise even during the winter months when people generally prefer to spend their time indoors.
“I remember one parent even thanked me because he believes that playing in the Baby League has helped his son build a healthy appetite. He also told me that he goes to bed on time since he was tired after the physical exertions, and wakes up early in the morning,” said Punjabi.
With as many as 711 children participating in the three Baby Leagues, and 69 teams fighting it out for the top honours, the beautiful game has captivated souls in the Valley.
“It is just about children learning how to play football. We got a really good reception from the locals after they realised that this was the case”, said Punjabi.