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The Emergence of Jammu and Kashmir as a Sports Powerhouse

Sports and outdoor activities serve as powerful tools to transform the youth into a well-organized, confident, and skilled workforce, aligning with the overarching goal of socio-economic development. It comes as no surprise that promoting Youth sports in Jammu and Kashmir has remained a focal point for the Union Territory’s administration since August 2019.

The utilization of sports as a medium to harness the energy and potential of the younger generation has played a significant role in nurturing our nation’s human capital. This tradition dates back to 1982 when we hosted the Asian Games in New Delhi.

Sports in Jammu and Kashmir

On February 3, 2022, the Jammu and Kashmir government introduced a new sports policy with the aim of empowering the youth of Kashmir to excel in various sporting activities and reach new heights. This policy was unveiled at a time when the millennial youth of the region were witnessing the return of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and actively seeking constructive avenues to showcase their talents.

There is a growing recognition that fostering the youth and empowering women, along with enhancing sports, healthcare, and educational infrastructure, alongside social and cultural initiatives, can contribute significantly to both peace and development.

According to data from the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, there has been a substantial increase in sports infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir. For instance, in 2014-15, there were a mere 21 Khelo India Centres in J&K. However, by 2020-21, this number had surged to an impressive 127, marking a six-fold increase. Currently, J&K boasts nine sports stadiums, a stark contrast to the mere two it had nine years ago, and the number of playing fields has expanded from 50 to 300.

The Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council (J&KSC) has played a pivotal role in developing sports facilities across the Union Territory.

Through their exceptional dedication and tireless efforts, they have managed to establish 82 new playing fields and are actively working on adding another 170. The council has also taken a lead role in upgrading 77 existing sports facilities. As a result, J&K’s young and talented athletes now have an environment that fosters their excellence.

Sports in Jammu and Kashmir have seen the rise of several popular disciplines, including football, cricket, and wushu. Real Kashmir FC, a prominent football club, joined the I-League, India’s top football division, in 2018. The club’s remarkable victory in the prestigious Durand Cup in 2021, one of Asia’s oldest football tournaments, is a testament to their success.

Winter sports have also gained recognition in J&K, with the Jammu and Kashmir Winter Games Association (J&KWGA) hosting the Khelo India Winter Games since 2020.

In 2021, these games drew over 1,000 athletes from across the country, underlining J&K’s emergence as a new sports hub in India.

Today, J&K boasts a roster of sporting icons. Among them is 11-year-old Tajamul Islam, a gold medalist at the World Kickboxing Championship. Javed Ahmed secured a bronze medal in cycling at the 2018 Asian Games. Football star Mehrajuddin Wadoo has clinched titles in the I-League and Durand Cup. Ishfaq Ahmed is a member of the Indian national football team, while all-rounder Parvez Ghulam Rasool Zargar and fast bowler Umran Malik have represented India in cricket.

Prominent athletes from Jammu and Kashmir have achieved remarkable success on the international stage. Surya Bhanu Partap Singh, Abhishek Jamwal, Jiya Manhas, and 17-year-old Sadia Tariq all secured victories in the Wushu Stars Championship held in Moscow, Russia. Additionally, Farooq Ahmed Dar is a celebrated para-athlete from J&K, and Shabnam Bashir has earned accolades in martial arts, including a gold medal at the 2019 National Kickboxing Championships.

Recognizing the transformative potential of sports, the J&K government has prioritized its development, providing world-class facilities to budding athletes and extending support through various initiatives and financial assistance.

A decade ago, the mere mention of Kashmir evoked images of terrorism, militancy, civilian unrest, street clashes, and instability. Fast forward to today, and the region has undergone a remarkable transformation. It boasts a thriving economy, a harmonious society, a flourishing tourism industry, and a vibrant hospitality sector. The agriculture and horticulture sectors have rebounded, and Jammu and Kashmir is now emerging as a significant player in the realm of sports and adventure activities.

Jammu and Kashmir’s inspiring journey to becoming a sports powerhouse is a testament to the region’s resilience and determination in the world of sports. Join us in celebrating their remarkable rise in the realm of sports in Jammu and Kashmir.

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