The ongoing season of the I-League has brought the passion for football in Jammu and Kashmir to the fore and another positive development from the state has now come to light with All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) recent grassroots programme, including a first-ever Baby League in Leh Ladakh garnering an overwhelming response.
In October this year, a State Development Workshop, as well as a Grassroots Leaders course, was held in Leh, in collaboration with the Jammu and Kashmir Football Association (JKFA).
The course aimed to build a foundation for the development of football in the high-altitude region. Along with these, Baby Leagues in four different age groups were also initiated and have seen a number of children participate and take an interest.
“This is the first time a Baby League of any kind has been organized in Ladakh,” explained Tsering Tsomo, who is a qualified football coach and one of the main organizers of the AIFF initiative.
“We have four age groups in all, U7, U9, U11 and U13. While three leagues are conducted in Leh, the U11 one is conducted 200km away from the place,” she said in a chat with AIFF Media.
“The teams come from all corners of the state and from a variety of backgrounds. There are plans in place to expand the programme, especially with the kind of response received,” she informed.
“We have been receiving requests from people in the Nubra Valley for Baby Leagues and courses, as there are a number of kids who want to engage in the sport. It is worth noting that the area is extremely remote and to get there, one has to pass through the world’s highest motorable pass, the Khardung La,” stated Tsomo.
Zameer A. Thakur, President of the JKFA, pronounced that the initiative will draw more to the sport.
“This is the first time such a programme has been held in the region. It was extremely well received and we hope that in collaboration with the AIFF, we shall be able to implement more such plans and attract more and more people to the sport,” he maintained.
Meanwhile, Tsomo stressed that the organisers have overcome a lot of obstacles including the harsh weather conditions to make the programme a grand success.
“The administration has been really supportive and has helped us in every way possible. However, we initially faced difficulty in convincing parents and children to come forward and participate as people are not as aware of the sport. However, once we broke through the initial barrier, the response we got was amazing.”