From stone pelter to ace footballer, Kashmir’s Afshan wins praise from PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inter-acts with Afshan Ashiq, the Kashmir's footballer on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inter-acts with Afshan Ashiq, the Kashmir's footballer on Thursday.

Fans will now say `Ace it like Afshan’, Modi tells her

You have become inspiration for girls all over India

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Sept 24: From stone pelter in 2017 to ace football goalkeeper for FC Kolhapur City in 2019, Afshan Ashiq from Kashmir today won the praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who described her as “role model” for the women saying football fans usually say ‘Bend it like Beckham’ but now they will say ‘Ace it like Afshan’.

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During his interaction with fitness experts and influencers from across the country to mark one-year anniversary of the ‘Fit India Movement’, Modi also virtually inter-acted with 25-year-old Afshan Ashiq saying: “You have done very well in football. Usually, football fans say ‘Bend it like Beckham’, but now they will say ‘Ace it like Afshan’.
(David) Beckham was key player for England football team and `Bend it like Beckham’ was a hit movie made on his name.
“What you have done in your career, you’ve become an inspiration for girls all over Kashmir and India. Following you, many girls will come forward seeing you as an example,” the Prime Minister told Afshan on the occasion.
Afshan had hit the headlines in 2017 as a stone pelter in Srinagar.
The 25-year-old was goalkeeper in J&K women’s football team and later played in the Indian Women’s League in 2019 for FC Kolhapur City. She also trains youngsters in Srinagar.
Afshan said she gets inspiration from former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, eulogised as ‘captain cool’.
“I do meditation at 5:30 every morning to keep my mind cool. I have learnt a lot from M S Dhoni, he is always calm. I like getting that calmness in my life, it helps to do all work calmly. It helps in balancing mental stress,” she said.
Afshan, during the virtual interaction with Modi, spoke about her training routine and importance of physical and mental fitness. She also spoke about how she has learned the trait of keeping calm in toughest of situations from MS Dhoni.
“I have learned a lot from him. He operates very calmly be it as a captain or as a player. I try to do the same. The way he works in his life, I believe everyone should function the same way to keep the mental stress under check. Such practices help in keeping the day-to-day jobs stress-free,” she told the Prime Minister.
Interestingly, Afshan, back in 2017, pelted stones at security forces in Kashmir.
However, she has come a long way since then as she was invited by the Government for the Fit India Movement. She has now completely changed and is engaged in encouraging youth especially girls to do regular exercises and take to sports to keep them fit.
“When I go for exercises and walk and see girls doing same, I feel happy. Not only in Jammu and Kashmir but girls across the country should come forward to keep their point and stay fit,” Afshan said.
She said she had to stay fit not only physically but mentally as well as 60 percent fame depends on the goalkeeper. “I’ve to watch every player”.
Listening to views of Virat Kohli and Milind Soman was a learning experience for Afshan. “By listening to their views I found I need to bring in a lot of changes in my life,” she said.
Talking about her struggle, she said her family did not allow her to pursue football as a career. “They opposed my decision initially, but I somehow won their confidence. I was the first woman footballer from Jammu and Kashmir and the journey was hard in the beginning,” she said, continuing the attitude of the people has changed a lot towards women players in the last few years.
She felt her decision has encouraged many girls to go into sports. “When I see girls playing in the field I feel happy. Girls from the rest of India should also come forward and speak for themselves,” she said.
While highlighting the importance of fitness in the lives of women, she said: “Woman has to play different roles in life like wife, mother, daughter-in-law, so they should keep themselves fit. Everyone should exercise for at least 30-minutes daily”.
PTI adds: The participants of the dialogue opined that fitness has become a more important aspect of life in times of COVID-19 and highlighted the importance of nutrition, wellness, and various other aspects of fitness.
Skipper Virat Kohli explained how the Yo-Yo test helped Indian cricketers aim for high-level fitness when Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him about the mandatory running aerobic fitness routine.
Modi was keen to know what Yo-Yo test is and asked if the captain also has to pass it or he gets spared?
“I heard these days there is a Yo-Yo test for the team, what is this test,” asked Modi during the virtual interaction.
Kohli, smiling, replied, “This Test was very important from fitness point of view. If we talk about global fitness level, our fitness level is still low compared to other teams and we want to take it up, which is a basic requirement.”
The grueling routine has two sets of cones that are 20 meters apart. Once the beep is sounded, the athlete has to reach the marker on the other side by the time the next beep sounds, turn and get back to where he started before the third beep.
The frequency of the beeps gradually increases for the subsequent runs.
Kohli, who is currently in the UAE for the ongoing 13th IPL, said even he has to clear the test to get selected for the India team.
“I’m the one who goes to run first and this is the condition that if I fail that I am also not available for selection. It is important to set that culture and it will lead to improvement in overall fitness levels.”
The session was also attended by Paralympic javelin gold medalist Devendra Jhajharia.