SRINAGAR : In a rare sight in the last three decades of militancy, around 2,000 Kashmiris, defying a shutdown call in strife-torn Bandipora district, gathered at the floodlit Sher-e-Kashmir stadium, 66km from Srinagar, for a football match.
Night life in these parts are rarely witnessed except during festivals — even day time has its lurking dangers of terror strikes.
The match between Mohammadan Sports Sopore and Real Kashmir football club ended in a draw, but for 90 minutes people forgot the turbulence in their district, concentrating instead on the sportsmanship spirit.
As the news of matches which were scheduled to be played under floodlights went viral on social media, huge rush of people left the cosy atmosphere at their home moved towards the ground.
The stadium was packed to capacity on Wednesday evening, catching many by surprise, even as the district took stock of the situation after a colleges student was killed in Kupwara in a crossfire during an encounter between the security forces and militants on Tuesday.
A group of football lovers, who had gathered at the stadium around 6pm an hour before the match, said this was the first time that they had seen a football match on such a grand scale. They said they had previously seen floodlit stadiums only on TV screens.
The spectators even live-streamed the match, encouraging other Kashmiri youths to join them at the stadium. “As I saw pictures of the match being played under floodlights on WhatsApp, within minutes I, along with my two other friends, left our houses and headed towards the ground,” said Firdous Ahmad of Bandipora.
Three students, Ubair Sofi, Mir Wajid and Azhar Ali, all in their 20s, who organized the Sofi Ghulam Mohmmad Memorial Football Tournament and held it at night, said they were motivated to organise the tournament as they wanted some leisure activity in their hometown.
The youths, who study outside the valley, said they will hold more such matches in the future.