Jammu: A 21-year-old Nadiya Nighat has defied all stereotypes to become the first female football coach from Kashmir.
Been in the spotlight for quite some time now, she is inspiring young girls in the Valley to get into the sport, despite all odds.
Nadiya, who draws inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, has won 10 national and state-level awards in football and got trained to be a coach with the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association (JKFA).
In 2015, she was also awarded the title of ‘Best Referee’ by the All India Football Association.
Nadiya’s jersey number is JJ7, the same as Ronaldo’s jersey number and is also the name of her football club where she trains under-19 girls and boys teams.
She has been associated with a homegrown football club Lone Star FC for the last two years and has been handling an important post of assistant coach for the club.
She, along with the team management has embarked on a mission to prepare the Lone Star FC to qualify for India’s prestigious I-League.
Nadiya’s journey into football has been not less than a fairy tale. Once a cricket freak, Nadiya landed into the world of football because of her madness of trying to kick a tennis ball every time she played cricket with the boys in her locality.
“When I was 11-year-old, I had interest in cricket. I would mostly find happiness in being a fielder rather than bowling or batting. When a ball would approach towards me, I would kick it with my feet, which I somehow subconsciously used to consider a football,” Nadiya said.
Nadiya professionally started playing football after 2007, after she was noticed by an 80-year-old football Coach Mohammad Abdullah, while she was playing a random football match in her local area at Rambagh.
“The coach took me to Amar Singh College Academy and began my training there. I was the only girl among 47 boys,” Nadiya mentioned.
Nadiya played her first match as a professional footballer in 2010.
“I was an amateur footballer then and was selected for under-19 national team. Coach replaced a top footballer with me in the last 10 minutes and I managed to score a goal against Punjab in the nail-biting minutes of the game,” Nadiya said.
“Initially, even my family wouldn’t support me. People used to pass comments on me when I would leave for football practice. But now my family, as well as people in my locality, have started supporting me,” she said.
Nadiya credits her success to her coach, Muhammad Abdullah, who she said has always helped her professionally and personally to grow as a professional footballer.
A tough taskmaster, Nadiya is now training her 30 wards, including both girls and boys, at a football academy in Srinagar’s Rambagh.
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