The Joan of Arc
She is Nadiya Nighat from Jammu & Kashmir. The 26-year aged girl can be termed a ‘revolution’ in one word. Having defied all odds since her childhood the lanky but stout Nadiya has inscribed her name as the first professional licensed football coach in her state. Having fought back against the constant threat from her community people for playing football by wearing shorts and T-Shirts, Nadiya has not only continued playing the game but has continuously campaigned for other girls in her state who were equally suppressed in the male-dominant society, bringing them out of their houses to join football. Along with steering herself as a footballer, Nadiya had acquired ‘D’ and AFC ‘C’ licenses in coaching in 2017 and 2018, respectively. She has not stopped here. She already has set up a coaching center (J.J-7) in her place in the state in Rambagh after her favorite striker Christiano Ronaldo. The state sports council has donated her ground but all other expenses for the under-19 trainee footballers in her coaching school are borne by Nadiya. She is called ‘Joan of Arc’ in the football fraternity in Jammu & Kashmir and her students, and football colleagues call her ‘Jiya Jan’.
The Childhood of Nadiya Nighat
Nadiya used to play football with a cricket ball outside her home in Rambagh at the age of only three years old. Talking over the phone from Srinagar Nadiya recalled and smiled saying,-
“I didn’t even know the size of a football that time. But I was fond of playing cricket at that time and it continued when I was 11 years. I did not find any girl who would play with me. So I used to play cricket with the local boys. My father, who was a mechanical engineer and my mother had to hear a lot of taunts, and harsh criticism from me. I could feel they became upset but never discouraged me.”
The transition towards serious Football
Nadiya always tried to kick a tennis ball while playing, and this spontaneous act guided the girl to develop a passion for football. She started playing football seriously and set her focus on making her career through the game in 2007. Nadiya often pays gratitude to Mohammad Abdullah, an 80-year-old football coach. Abdullah noticed her passion and basic skill when Nadiya used to take part in matches at random in Rambagh. Interestingly, as there was no female footballer at that time Nadiya had to play with the boys. She said, –
“Playing with the boys helped me to develop speed, physical strength as well as mental strength too. Abdullah sir took me to Amar Singh College academy and there I was the only girl footballer along with 47 boys.”
The Route to Coaching
Nadiya had participated in the school’s national football championship. Then she has a fond memory of scoring a last-minute goal in the nail-biting match against Punjab in the under-19 national championship. Additionally, Nadiya has represented the J & K senior side in women’s national championships in 2015, 2018, and 2021, respectively. Still, the girl’s football journey was not getting accomplished as there was no other competitive girls’ team as well as girls’ football tournament. Nadiya remembered, –
“Following advice from one of my well-wishers, Intekhab Alam I took up coaching and completed ‘D’ and AFC ‘C’ license as well as a short course on coaching from NIS.”
Nadiya Nighat – The Unfulfilled Dream and Mission
Earning coaching degrees has helped Nadiya Nighat a lot she feels. She has played and done coaching almost simultaneously. She has played in the Indian Women’s Franchise League, IWL. She has played in Kerala women’s football league. At the same time, Nadiya has worked with the leading Kashmir football club Lonestar FC men’s team as its assistant coach and main coach of the club’s women’s team also. Still, the 26-year-old striker has an unfulfilled dream. That is representing the senior Indian women’s team. Nadiya holds her incompetent state football association for this reason. She explained, –
“How should I be selected for the senior Indian women’s team? J&K does not have women’s tournaments. The league has also been suspended for the last couple of years and when the women’s national championship takes place no spotter to recruit quality footballers are seen. So even if I perform, there is no one to look at.”-- Advertisement --
Still, Nadiya is not giving up and at the same time, she has a mission.
“I have taken initiative to resume the women’s football league in the state. I have got 10 teams comprising enthusiastic and promising women footballers who can take part in the league. I have already submitted a proposal to a few private companies. If they are willing then the women’s league will resume and women’s football in J & K will also revive. But still today, media people do not at all encourage us to play the game. I am not giving up.
Let us see, ” Nadiya finished off.