For Kashmiri footballer Shahnawaz Bashir, a secure government job, the aim of many playing the sport in the country, landed much before his career took off with a team which is aiming to make a mark in I-League debut.
The mid-field pivot is among the footballers, who make up Real Kashmir FC, the first team from Jammu and Kashmir to secure a place in the I-League.
The 30-year-old Bashir, who hails from Srinagar, is unwilling to give up his sporting dreams with RKFC, despite the job.
“I am working as a senior accountant in the Accountant General’s office in Srinagar. It is a 9 to 5 job but I get some relaxations, I can join office one hour late. The AG (Accountant General) allows me do that as he knows the craze for football in Kashmir and the positive impact it is making,” said Bashir.
“I train (at TRC Ground in Srinagar) with the team from 8 am to around 10 am and rush to office at 11 am. In the evening, I leave office a bit late, say 5:30 or 6 pm. It is a hectic life but I am used to it and I am happy doing this,” he adds.
The midfielder has no current financial problems to talk about but has seen his share of hardships while growing up.
“My father is a small-time businessman and my mother a housewife. I did not have a football to kick or boots of my own and I had to borrow from others. Since my father also played football in his younger days, he has no issues with me playing the game.
“But my mother was initially opposed to it as she felt this would not take me anywhere. I joined a football academy (run by J & K Bank) and from there, I joined Lonestar Kashmir (which currently plays in second division I-League) and played there for three years (from 2014 to 2016). Last year, I joined Real Kashmir,” he said.
He also completed his Bachelors degree and got a permanent central government job.
Bashir admitted he may have difficulties in joining other clubs outside Srinagar because of his job. Despite this, he dreams of playing for the national team.
“Every footballer wants to be in the national team and I also dream of the same. I don’t think there will be any problem if I am selected in the national team. I can apply for leave from my office to be in national camps and for playing matches,” he said.
“Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Ishfaq Ahmed played for India and any of these players in Real Kashmir can play in the Indian team in future also, who knows. I am seeing a football revolution in Kashmir,” he said.
Bashir said except for a few instances in the past, the volatile situation in the valley does come in the way of the game.
“People from outside Kashmir may think differently but it is normal there as far as playing football is concerned. The problem is not much about the situation there but it is more about lack of infrastructure.”
Real Kashmir play their first match of the I-League against defending champions Minerva Punjab on October 31 in Panchkula. Their first home match is against Churchill Brothers of Goa on November 6.