Kashmiri footballer recalls life under curfew distress

With the enforced lockdown in Kashmir, skipper Mohammed Asrar talks about how he relied on his FC Bengaluru United teammates and coaching staff for emotional support.

Mohammed Asrar was perennially afraid for his family’s safety during the curfew in Kashmir.   -  Special Arrangement

Only a few months ago, Mohammed Asrar was thrilled to move to Bengaluru from his home in Kashmir. He was set to be a key striker for his new club FC Bengaluru United, a welcome change from getting minimal playing time at Lonestar Kashmir FC.

The joy, however, would be short-lived. Just four days after his arrival here, a lockdown was enforced in Kashmir. Faced with little or no communication with his family, Asrar suffered through a period of great distress.

“I got to talk to my parents for just one minute every 10 days. My parents had to go to the airport and wait in queue for an hour to call me. My mother would cry every time we spoke. It was terrible,” Asrar said here.

The 21-year-old was perennially afraid for his family’s safety. “My parents and sister would say, ‘Don’t be scared even if we are unable to talk to you for months. We will be alive and safe’. That scared me. How is it possible to not get worried about your family? Every day we would read about the things happening back home, so it is natural to imagine the worst," Asrar said.

The forward was desperate to return home and check on his loved ones but decided against it. “If I had visited home, it would not have been easy to come back. My home is just four kilometres from the airport, but even travelling that short distance was tough because of the strict curfews,” Asrar said.

The FC Bengaluru United captain relied on his teammates and coaching staff for emotional support. “I can’t thank (FC Bengaluru United head coach) Richard Hood enough. Hood enquired about my family every day. He also gave me leave for Eid, so that I could travel to Chennai to meet my best friend. My friend is also from Kashmir, and it was nice to share my feelings with someone who was going through the same troubles. Hood, (first-team coach) Gouramangi Singh and my teammates stood by me during a horrible phase of my life,” he said.

The situation is comparatively better in the Valley now, with landlines and mobile phones back in use. “The Internet is still not working. There have been many articles written about me scoring goals here, but my parents have been unable to read anything,” Asrar said.

With his personal life now slowly getting back on track, Asrar can focus once again on football. “My only aim is to win the upcoming Hero Second Division League. We will give everything to win,” he said.

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