The remote Bangus valley of Kashmir near LoC turned into a mini Madrid when thousands of people gathered to witness the final match of the "Bangus Valley Soccer tournament” on Monday.
The enthusiasm of Kashmiries for the sport defeated the fear of terrorism and according to a statement of Jammu and Kashmir Football Association (JKFA), as much as 20,000 people turned up to watch the final in Baki Aker ground at Rajwar area of Bangus near Pak border.
In the final match, Mohammaden Sports Sopore clashed with SW Ashkura Baramulla under the lights which were arranged by the District Football Association (DFA) Handwara, a unit of Jammu and Kashmir Football Association.
From boys as young as eight years to senior citizens, people from adjoining areas of the Rajwar started to gather at the venue since afternoon. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed 60 minutes of high voltage football at a place where entry is restricted due to security reasons.
“In my lifetime, I have never seen such a crowd in this area. Unfortunately, we have suffered immensely in the last 28-years due to the close proximity of the area to the LoC. More than twenty thousand people gathering at one place and that too without any security arrangements in Kashmir these days is an achievement in itself,” said Aijaz Sofi, chief patron DFA Kupwara.
"The fans came on bikes, in cars, trucks, tippers, load carriers and whatever form of transport they could. The festivity in the area made the people of remote area forget about their day-to-day issues for some time," Sofi said.
"But more than twenty thousand people gathering at one place and that too without any security arrangements in Kashmir these days is an achievement in itself," he said.
"The reality is that Kashmiri youth has abundant talent and can shine like stars if provided the right opportunities," he added.
The president of JKFA, Zamir Thakur said he was present during the match and didn't feel that the area was close to Pakistan border.
"Such was the enthusiasm of the football fans that for a moment we forgot whether we are near the border or in Srinagar," Zamir said.
(With PTI inputs)