Hyderya Sports FC aims to play in the I-League and Indian Super League - Syed Akeel, Chief Executive Officer
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It’s only fitting that one of the most beautiful places on our planet is a location where the ‘beautiful game’ of football is played. Kashmir has endured its fair share of difficulties, but football is proving to be a welcome distraction for the Kashmiri youth, who are not only keeping up to date with the latest football news, but are also being given the opportunity to showcase their talent and skills at a professional stage.
In an exclusive interview with Syed Akeel, the Chief Executive Officer at Hyderya Sports FC spoke about his vision for the club, grassroot development, overcoming challenges, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and future goals.
Q 1) What is your vision for Hyderya Sports FC? What needs to be done to make it a reality?
Right from the beginning, Hyderya Sports FC has been trying to involve players from all over Kashmir. We want to promote players who don’t have basic equipment or training at the grassroot level and give them a big platform to perform. Our vision is to participate in the I-League, a national level tournament and after that if things go well we would also participate in the Indian Super League which is a goal for the future. To make this vision a reality, we are dedicating a lot of time going to many districts to scout for players. Kashmir has the talent, but unless we don’t give talented players the opportunities it will be wasted. We create such opportunities at the district levels and rural areas by spending money from our own pockets. We are associated with one of Brazil’s academies and in the future, our goal is to start our own academy.
Q 2) How does Hyderya Sports FC aim to promote football at the grassroots to unearth more local talent?
We do trials in every district after a duration of three months. The selectors decide if an aspiring footballer is capable of playing for Hyderya Sports FC and our talented coaches teach players techniques and brush up their skills. At the grassroot level, we face challenges when the parents don’t allow their child to play, and it becomes our job to motivate and convince them. We want the youth to play football instead of taking drugs and that’s why providing opportunities in football is very important.
Q 3) As Chief Executive Officer of Hyderya Sports FC, what are the different challenges that you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Managing a club in Kashmir is a really tough challenge, as there is a limited time when practice can be held and not many grounds to play on. There is only one turf to play on in Kashmir and the other grounds are not well maintained or equipped which increases the risk of injuries for players. Fayaz Ahmad Sofi, President of the District Football Association in Jammu & Kashmir has played a great role in promoting football at the district level. He helps us with solutions whenever there are problems such as the two lockdowns we have experienced, article 370 and our sponsors stopped supporting us at that time. It was very difficult to but over time we devised a plan with the help of the management and football association where we all came up with solutions. Other clubs get special grants, but Hyderya Sports FC has not got a single rupee from the governmen.
Q 4) How has Hyderya Sports FC navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic? How much of an impact has it made to the club?
It really hurt us as the team was preparing for the I-League, we have to participate in one of the qualifying rounds from Jammu & Kashmir. Players were already here while some were struck outside and were not allowed to come here due to COVID. There was a lot of stress as Players were stuck in their rooms and were not authorized to go out. We came up with an initiative to bring each and every team member, associate and management to Zoom meetings. Providing them with lectures, proper training on how we can come up with this in order to keep our players stress free as it affects their performance. For example, if players are taking on the field after two months, there could be a lot of issues and injuries as well. Hence my technical team and directors were up to the mark, also my physiotherapist guided them well on remaining at the top of their fitness and what diet needs to be followed everyday. Although we were not authorised to go anywhere and were working from home, each and every player was updated through zoom meetings regarding everything.
Q 5) According to you, what needs to be done for aspiring footballers in Kashmir to consider the sport as a viable career option?
Kashmir is blessed with a lot of talent and we have a lot of clubs and teams which are owned by government organizations or corporate houses. We have a J & K Bank Football Team, who has accommodated a few players on payroll so the team management or club doesn't have to pay the players. According to us there should be a proper platform for each and every player wherein players can promote themselves. We have a lot of other clubs here but in the name of Kashmir they enrolled players from outside. Majority of players are from outside and they are not promoting players from grassroot levels. We hope that with the blessing of God, help from the management and the Football Association, we will be able to bring a change in this. Mr. Fayaz Ahmad Sofi, the District President of Football Association and has always been there for support and often comes with his technical team and interacts with people and their family members. Besides, we also have a female team where we promote girls as well, to participate in games and break free from their stress as the lockdown in Kashmir began in August and we are still in the same position since then.
Q 6) What are the future goals of Hyderya Sports FC? How does the football club plan to achieve them?
The future goal for Hyderya Sports FC is to qualify for the I-League. We want to play in the I-League this year and after that we want to qualify for the first division, ]which will make the team play in every corner of the country. You must be aware of teams like Mohun Bagan and Real Kashmir, they are the first division teams. Right now we are in the second division and once we qualify, we will be in the first division wherein we can promote the candidates or players. We also plan to participate in the Indian Super League in future.