SRINAGAR: Hailing from Payir area of District Pulwama but grew up in Srinagar, Naveed Yousuf got a chance to play Rugby first time at his school in 2006, when he was 15 years old. During an inter school match when his team won a gold, he just became fascinated with the game.
Being juniors his team was only allowed to play touch matches (Where one player only touches the opponent player) but he wanted to play proper matches.
Ulimately his hard quests to play rugby lead him to observe senior players in field whenever he would get a chance. “When our team went to participate in a state level tournament and I saw senior players playing ‘tackle’. I went to my trainer and requested him to allow me to play a tackle game. He just smiled and said it’s not your cup of tea”. Naveed says with a smile on his face.
Many athletes go through a difficult process of coping with perfectionism and their fear of failure but this was quite opposite with the rugby lover who didn’t took any offence and went to request his trainer repeatedly to just let him play a tackle match.
Remaining staunchly focused,, Naveed started taking separate classes and tips from his coach on Sundays and finally being in a junior category he was successful in playing a tackle match with the senior players.
Soon, he was selected for the national tournaments as well, slowly but steadily Naveed grew under the mentorship of Coach, Mr. Irfan Aziz Botta. In 2014, his team won a silver medal in All India National Seniors Rugby Tournament. For this tournament the team practiced 6 hours a day and Mr. Botta trained them for over a month in Jammu.
What athletes do not want to happen often, happened with Naveed. His forearm got injured badly during the practice match in the camp but he didn’t give up and continued to play. “It was for the first J&K Rugby team won silver at a national level. It was such an emotional movement that I couldn’t hold back my tears on ground.” Naveed added.
Due to the limited seats available in professional courses after 12th Naveed had to shift to Delhi to peruse higher education but his love for Rugby remained intact and he started practicing with the Delhi Rugby team over the weekends.
In 2015, Naveed had been selected for the national camp which he couldn’t attend due to his shoulder injury. After recovering from the injury and due to the regular training Naveed was selected for the 3rd Snow Rugby national tournament held at Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir where J&K team won gold medals in both the categories; girls and boys.
Till now Naveed has played 6 nationals. He plays as a prop in his team and is the only national Rugby player from South Kashmir with a silver and gold medal to his tag. Naveed is a level 1 qualified coach and voluntarily trains students of district Pulwama and Shopian on weekends.
The only thing in life he regrets is the international event that took place in Pakistan but he was not able to take part despite being selected as the authorities didn’t provide him visa.
Naveed despite odds is perfect example of where there’s a will, there’s is a way.
Eyeing on nationals games qualifier this year, Naveed is training hard but the limited facilities in J&K are becoming a serious obstacle. Recently a professional Rugby ground was sanctioned and is still under construction. It will be a first of its kind professional Rugby ground in Jammu and Kashmir “When I compare the facilities that other state governments provide to their players it simply discourages me because we even don’t have a proper ground but in the words of Michael Jordan, Obstacles can’t stop you”. Naveed mentioned before signing off.
Certainly, journey of Naveed is inspiration for all youth in Kashmir and outside. (KNB)