Sports has been an integral part of Kashmiri culture. Sports is associated with inculcating values of team spirit, determination, respect and never give up attitude. The youth and children of Kashmir have chosen sports as a tool to rise in life and achieve a bright future. Participating in sports and games help reduce stress levels and increase feeling of mental well-being. The amalgamation of youth and sports has contributed significantly towards maintaining and promoting peace and security in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Active participation in sports has helped in drawing youth’s attention away from unwanted and regressive feelings of religious extremism and militancy. Indian Army has been the flag bearer of improving the general flair of sports among the youth and children and has always promoted sports activities in the valley. The region of Jammu & Kashmir has exceptional talent in a variety of sports, what required is the identification such talent and provision of the necessary support system to hone their capabilities. On 03 Feb 2022, the Government of Jammu & Kashmir rolled out a new sports facility to energise and harness the best of the sports capabilities of the Kashmiri youth. With the help of this venture, the government desires to build an Eco-system for the youth and future Kashmiri generation to scale new heights in the field of sports.
The state of sports infrastructure in the state of Jammu & Kashmir has improved over the last decade. Jammu & Kashmir has a flair for football. In fact, football is more popular in Kashmir than cricket. The state is home to some 500 clubs that take part in different tournaments at the national and state level. The Union Territory also has four government owned physical and sports education institutes which are vital to promote football. Teams from Jammu and Kashmir play in I - league are Real Kashmir F.C. one prominent football player who is currently playing is Abdul Majeed Kakroo. Prominent football clubs such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal also have representations from Jammu & Kashmir. Srinagar Downtown Lion club is a popular football club in the city of Srinagar that has given youngsters an alternative option to the menace of drugs. The valley has numerous fields in rural areas which provide ample space for children to enjoy football. There are few good quality football grounds available in Srinagar which are not enough for the cause. In 2014 Jammu & Kashmir got its first exclusive football stadium with an imported synthetic football turf at TRC polo ground. There is much needed requirement to develop at least two high quality football grounds in each district and appointment of good coaches at grass root level who can improve the skills of budding young footballers, talent hunting events should be organised in rural areas by collaboration of Army and civil administration to provide much needed boost to football.
Cricket is the second most played sport after football here. Jammu & Kashmir cricket team participates in prestigious List A championships like Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy. Popular players from the region are Parveez Rasool, Abdul Samad, Mithun Manhas, Rashik Salam and Manzoor Dar. Jaisa Akhtar is the first woman from Jammu & Kashmir to get selected for Indian Women’s National cricket team. Indian Army is a front runner in organising regular district level cricket tournaments to provide much needed platform for young cricketers to showcase their skills. Similarly, the J&K Police also have their own T-20 Tournaments. Jammu & Kashmir has two cricket stadiums, Sher-I-Kashmir Stadium in Srinagar and Maulana Azad Kashmir Stadium in Jammu. Jammu & Kashmir has a structured system of selection of players through various levels of cricket tournaments. The state and district administration are also providing support to the various district level cricket associations to harness talent.
Being an Indian I always cherished fast paced sports such as cricket, football, basketball and hockey. We are surprised to know that golf has an extremely high degree of following in Jammu & Kashmir. While the plains are boiling, Kashmiri temperate climate allows the golfer to play longer hours without getting tired. Golf tourism is one of the main attractions of Kashmir Valley in summer. The peak season for Golf is April to November. The Gulmarg Golf Course is located at an altitude of 2,650 meters, it is the highest Golf Course in the world. Jammu & Kashmir has a good number of golf courses to its name, including Pahalgam Golf Course, Royal Spring Golf Course, Kashmir Golf Course to name a few. The UT of Jammu & Kashmir is blessed to have such excellent infrastructure for pursuing golf as a career. The youth of Jammu & Kashmir have a bright future in the sport of golf. With their own hard work and assistance from civil administration and sports federations Jammu and Kashmir can produce golf champions in future.
Snow-clad mountains in Gulmarg and the lakes of Kashmir in the winter season provide outstanding opportunities for winter sports. Kashmiri population is extremely fortunate to have such great natural locations conducive to the pursuit of winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skating and much more. National level winter sporting events have been conducted in Gulmarg including the alpine ski championship. Kashmiri youth performed exceedingly well in these games. Khelo India winter games were organised twice in year 2020 and year 2022 where athletes of J&K won the maximum number of medals. The Indian Institute of skiing and Winter Sports conducts courses for skiing and other winter sports for learners and advanced skiers. Jawahar Institute of mountaineering and winter sports is a pioneer of winter sports in Jammu & Kashmir. This institute conducts courses on basic mountaineering, advanced mountaineering rescue courses, basic, intermediate and advanced skiing courses. More such facilities should be provided and developed in collaboration with experts form the US, European countries and Australia who participate in the Winter Olympic games.
Basketball is a highly popular sport worldwide. NBA is a household name in India. However, this global sport fails to attract much attention in India and conditions are not encouraging in Jammu & Kashmir. Unfortunately, basketball is not a popular sport because it needs specific infrastructure which is not available at all. Except for Jammu and Srinagar there are no basketball courts available anywhere in the state. With only one (SAI) Sport Authority of India center and fewer availability of coaches available, it is extremely challenging to draw youngster's attention toward basketball.
There has been a colossal revolution in sports related infrastructure in terms of new stadiums of international standards and many others are being built in various districts. Jammu & Kashmir athletes have won numerous medals in numerous games at the national level. The sports council of UT of Jammu & Kashmir has been motivating young people to take sports as a career. The young and energetic population of Jammu & Kashmir is delighted with changes in sports sectors. The government’s efforts have encouraged the youth to pursuit sports and has diverted their attention from drugs and illegal activities. The youth here have enough talent and need guidance and a platform to advance in their journey of pursuing sports as a career. Today sports in Jammu & Kashmir are taking a new stride and society is taking a curve towards peace, security and development. Sports have been valuable in building trust, fostering communication between communities and provides a medium of counter radicalisation when the threat of radicalisation and extremism is more challenging than before.