National Indian football trophy returns to Kashmir

A major Indian football tournament is returning to the state of Kashmir after nearly three decades amid a decline in insurgency-related violence, Football Association officials told AFP. The Santosh Trophy, a popular national event, will be held in summer capital Srinagar, the urban hub of Kashmir’s Islamist insurgency. The tournament was last held in the scenic Himalayan state in 1978, almost a decade before rebels launched a deadly separatist revolt, often from neighbouring Pakistan territory.

The number of insurgency-related deaths has dropped from ten a day in 2001 to two in 2007, due to a peace process in place between India and Pakistan since 2004. Both countries hold sections of the state but each claim it in full. They have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

“Allah willing, the competition for Santosh Trophy will be held in Kashmir in July,” said Zamir Ahmad, head of Kashmir’s state Football Association. Indian national officials visiting the region to oversee preparations for the event said the competition would help the game in Kashmir. “Football is the main game here. I am sure if such a mega event is held here, people would get more involved in football,” said Subrotto Dutta, vice-president of the All India Football Association. “In the near future, I see a very rosy picture for football in Kashmir. We would do all that is needed to rejuvenate the game in Kashmir.”

Kashmiri footballers said they were looking forward to the event. “It will revive old memories and football in Kashmir,” said former captain Majeed Kakroo, one of many Kashmiris who played for India.