Pune: From being a poster girl who led other girls in throwing stones at the police to becoming the captain and coach of the Jammu & Kashmir football team and then playing for PIFA Colaba in Mumbai, life has been an adventure for Afshan Ashiq.
The 23-year-old girl from Srinagar was in Pune on Friday to inaugurate a replica of Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which was created to celebrate National Youth Day at The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
In an exclusive interview with Sakal Times, Afshan threw some light on her journey in football and the struggles girls face in Jammu & Kashmir when it comes to sport.
“It was very tough for me because being a Kashmiri and a girl, it was very difficult for me to convince my parents and my society that sports could be a good career option even for girls,” Afshan said.
“When I started my career in football my parents were against my decision. It was a struggle. I love my dad a lot but because I took up the game, my father stopped talking to me months. He used to advise me to leave football and do whatever I wanted to do in studies. But I was very much interested and wanted to do something for the girls from my state,” she said.
“There, it is difficult for girls to come out and represent themselves in sports.” Afshan said her only motive to take up football was to help out other like-minded girls.
“Boys on the other hand are always involved in sports but girls do not get such freedom. In Kashmir, football was never there for girls so I took this initiative, so that in future when people talk about girls here, we can tell everyone that we are ahead in whatever we do. I consider myself lucky that I got a chance to do something for my state. When I started in 2015, there were a lot of people who came out and helped me. My state association supported me a lot,” she explained.
Speaking about the challenges girls in Kashmir face, Afshan said “Initially when girls start to play, parents are not comfortable with the girls training under a male coach. Then the association started training and deploying women coaches for girls and I was the first female coach of Jammu & Kashmir. I also participated in Under-18 Girls Nationals in Goa as a coach. I feel content that what I took up is being completed.”
About the challenges as a coach Afshan said “We always used to suffer from ‘hartals’ and curfews during which leaving home was a challenge. I decided that no matter what happens, girls should come out and play. All the girls training under me used to support me. They used to be on the ground always during hours. I am elated that girls have broken those barriers.”
“My dream is to get into Indian team for which a lot of hard work needs to be done,” Afshan said, advising girls who are passionate about football to follow the dreams “no matter what happens”.
- Afshan Ashiq became known when her picture was published in a national daily as a stone pelter.
- Became the first girls coach for Jammu & Kashmir.
- Favourite club: Paris Saint-Germain
- Favourite player: Hope Solo (US Goalkeeper)