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Another Star in Kashmir
Kashmir had once seen one Danish Farooq Bhat around seven years ago who is presently representing India’s one of the leading football teams Bangalore FC. Kashmir has already gifted another star in a different sport and is none other than Danish Manzoor. He plays taekwondo and this sport has not yet gained popularity. But the laurels this 25-year-old player has already in his coronet cannot be ignored at all. Currently, Danish is training under Master Atul Pangotra since 2017 and is continuing under him to reach his dream of representing Indian at Olympics.
Since 2012 Danish has won medals galore, four gold medals and two bronze medals in the state championship, two consecutive gold medals in the Open Kashmir championship, two gold medals in the North India national championship, a precious silver medal in the senior national championship in Jaipur, participation in Asian Indoor Games as the first from Jammu & Kashmir, being one of the top 20 taekwondo players across the world participation in first-ever online European taekwondo championship and earning the silver medal in Tokey Memorial National Taekwondo Championship last year.
Childhood of Danish Manzoor
Danish is a resident of Baramulla district in the north of Kashmir, a border district that was extremely disturbed and politically tense. His father is a shopkeeper but since his childhood, Danish has been nurtured and looked after by his maternal family.
Talking over the phone from Baramulla, Danish exclaimed,
“My maternal family has been my biggest inspiration. They never discouraged me, only advising me to do whatever I wish with utmost sincerity.”
Danish disclosed he had a passion for cricket in his childhood:
“I played cricket a lot at a young age. One evening I went to collect a cricket ball that fell just beside our cricket ground hammered by a batsman. While collecting it I found a group of boys practicing Martial Arts. Incidentally, I was already highly infatuated by legendary Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan’s fighting videos and movies, and after having watched those boys practicing Marshal Arts that day my mind changed completely and the love for Martial Arts that was blooming in my mind came out. I left cricket and joined taekwondo training under Sajid Ashraf. It was sometime in 2011 and I was studying the seventh standard in school,” described Danish.
Earlier the family members of Danish got scared as the young boy was having injuries often while training for the game. Danish said:
“We did not have any mat or other guarding equipment for training. We used to practice on the rough and rocky surface.”
The Turmoil and Confidence
Baramulla was one of the main troubling places during 2011. The whole state was also going through extremely political instability. Today, Danish realizes learning taekwondo has helped to generate self-confidence. He said,
“The young generation, especially the youths of our age were going through insecure feelings at that time. But practicing taekwondo gave me confidence and the path to look forward to that time.”
Danish Manzoor Nightmares
The prosperous journey of Danish with the sport had already begun with medals consistently since 2012. Still, Danish cannot forget the frightening days in 2016 and 2017. He continued, “I was in perfect form in the senior national championship held in Jaipur in 2016. I bagged a silver medal. The world championship was scheduled to be held next year. I believe I could have earned the desired gold medal in the tournament that year. But due to acute political disorder, the curfew was imposed throughout Kashmir and it continued for eight months! We did not have any phone or internet connection. We were simply helpless, facing nightmares.”
Danish Manzoor Ideals- Mohammad Ali and Khabib
Truly, during those curfew days, Danish was shattered initially. Being dumped in his home the player had initially thought he would never be able to make a come-back. Still, Danish made recovery, first mental recovery and then reshaped fitness. The credit should go to two legends. One is Mohammad Ali and another one is 29-time UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Danish also has a trance to meet Khabib at least once. Danish sounded a little emotional saying:
“I often go through the life story of Ali. His struggle in his childhood and sheer mental strength to establish himself as legendary boxer-I become inspired whenever I read books on him or his video interviews and the same feeling comes to my mind when I watch Khabib’s videos and read articles on him. I was mentally devastated at that time. I felt the desired World Championship gold that I could have achieved slipped due to that long curfew. Still, I was able to make a come-back mainly due to these two legendary sportspersons.”
The Hurdles Ahead
11th September was the birthday of Danish Manzoor. He has received a lot of wishes and messages since morning on the day, especially from young and senior taekwondo players of the state. Most of all has sent his best wishes for his only mission of qualifying for the Paris Olympics and Word Championship in 2024 and finally winning medals. But Danish knows it is not easy. He explained,
“I need to be within the top 10. Once I am ranked within the world’s top 10, I will have a chance to qualify for both the prestigious tournaments like World Championship and the Olympics and to achieve the feat I need to win at least two gold medals, two silver medals, one bronze and also a medal in Asian Championship in the remaining 10-12 championships before World Championship and Olympics.”
Lack of Sponsorship
Danish has been in a desperate effort to manage financial assistance from anywhere. One J & K-based non-government organization Help Foundation came forward before Danish and he went to Israel to take part in a G-2 championship where he lost to Spain. He is going to have a G-2 championship in Lebanon in the first week of October. He stated,
“Help Foundation provided financial assistance only for my Israel trip. But I have 10-12 more international championships and I have no financial assistance from anyone.”
The player who has not yet applied for any job so far even though his monthly expenditure for undergoing professional taekwondo training is approximately Rs 50 thousand, lamented,
“Our federation itself is disputed and suspended. That is the most unfortunate part that unless a game is not recognized by its federation, the state association also can do nothing considering the financial help.”
A Dream of Difference
Danish Manzoor has a different dream for the future. After his glittering career comes to end, he has plans like other sports persons to teach taekwondo, but not by setting up a typical academy. Rather, Danish has plans to teach the basics and art of the game to school kids, boys who reside in slums, and the boys who are members of migratory families in Kashmir. Danish explained,
“I have been living with the dream and I will die with dreams. But the fulfillment of my dream is not only my mission. I want to pay something back to society through taekwondo.”