Arun Pal Singh
Recently, India has seen a growth in sports, especially in football with its youth teams defeating some of the top teams of the world like Argentina, Iraq etc in their respective age categories.
Football in our state of Jammu and Kashmir has also taken a big leap with one of its 2nd Division i-league team, Real Kashmir FC, winning the 2nd Division title and qualifying to play in top tier of the national club competition, i-league, this season, a first for any club in the state.
The club is based in Srinagar and has few local players from Kashmir who helped the team qualify for the big stage and are, well known faces in football circles of the state now. But within this success story of football in state, there is a silver lining for the Jammu region in the shape of a young footballer named Arun Naghial.
A glimpse of hope for struggling footballers of Jammu, Arun, spent a most of his childhood within the confines of BSF camp at Paloura, where he learnt his raw football skills, as a result of good and long exposure to BSF frontier football team, which used to practice in the campus. A tall and lean figure, he was spotted by a well respected and known former BSF Central team and Young Rovers FC coach, Vishwamitra, who took him into his club at GGM Science college grounds. After spending a season or two at Young Rovers, he was referred by one of the local footballers and his school mate, to another local and upcoming club of the city, Param FC. The new club saw a great potential in him and wasted no time signing him for the season. It is here that the real football journey began for this hard working player, who, under his new club, put up a sincere effort towards honing his technical and tactical abilities. He spent a lot of time in individual training at an unknown open field near his home in Bari Brahmana, a small town on the outskirts of Jammu, under the guidance of club’s coach. Lack of training facility in Jammu region did not affect his will to work hard for his dreams. The club, realizing his potential, encouraged him to try out for some top clubs of country. As a result of his improvements, a former international footballer from Jammu, Arun Malhotra, after spotting his talents, helped him sign for a top team of Uttrakhand Super League (USL), Dehradun Capital Rangers, where he helped the team reach the 3rd position. He even helped him try for some top professional clubs of the country.
Earlier during his stint at Param FC, he tried for JCT FC, Punjab and despite his young age and short experience at top level of football; he was selected in the squad and subsequently helped the team win the Punjab League. By now, his playing experience with some of the top footballers of Punjab and country boosted his confidence and standard of game.
While in the state, football in Kashmir was already getting ready to take some historic strides under the leadership of a Hilal Rasool Parray, the only AFC Pro Licensed football coach from the state, who was appointed as Head coach of Lonestar Kashmir FC, the first ever football club from the state to play 2nd Div i league. Param FC saw this as a big platform and opportunity for the upcoming talented player and engaged the head coach to sign Arun. The efforts of his former club didn’t go in vain, as he was allowed to try out for the club and managed to impress Hilal Rasool Parray. Under the modern and professional coaching of his Head coach at Lonestar Kashmir FC, Arun began to realize his true abilities. Though it took him a season to win complete confidence of the coach, there came a time when he was regarded as the main pillar of the team, while playing as their centre back throughout the season. Coach even trusted him to lead his team during the season.
In 2018, Hilal Rasool Parray departed from Lonestar for better opportunities while Arun remained indispensable part of the club as its skipper to lead it at 2nd tier of i-league.
During his time at Lonestar FC, Arun represented his state twice at Senior National Football as vice-captain and captain. It’s pertinent to mention here that Arun failed to get shortlisted for any state team while he was playing at Jammu therefore his former club encouraged him to leave for opportunities outside Jammu so that his talent could be genuinely recognized and appreciated. Lack of opportunities has always taken a toll on many good players of the region and it is this reason Arun’s former club, Param FC, recently, took upon themselves to provide a better platform to young footballers by applying for AIFF Academy Accreditation and subsequently managing to become 1 star AIFF Accredited Football Academy. With this step, club wishes to produce more and more players like Arun Naghial and even went on to say that there already are some good players in Jammu region but they face the same problems that Arun faced during his time at Jammu. They hoped that these players too would be identified and given opportunities at the higher level of football in country.
Arun’s journey hasn’t been a piece of cake as he had to sacrifice much for the love of the game. Being an above average in academics till higher secondary and later pursuing degree in Electrical Engineering, it was not easy to focus on sports, especially, when parents have big expectations from their kids. Fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional player kept him away from his studies, parents and home for larger parts of the year. Reducing ones financial dependence on parents is another challenge Arun had to face, since money is not easy to come by at early stages of professional football, thanks to football scenario in the country. Getting past such issues to survive and keeping focus on primary objective of somehow making it possible, is what brought Arun to present stage of evolving success. Moreover, initially, his naturally lean and casual looking stature, gave a rather negative first impression of his abilities as a good footballer even before he entered the field of play. It was only when he was actually in play, that his naturally different and fantastic style of play could be seen firsthand, not to forget the hard work and effort he puts in while playing. He did face some selection issues at the beginning of his professional career but as coaches saw more and more and him, he could hardly be ignored.
Coming back to the silver lining, he was recently spotted and signed by Real Kashmir FC for their first ever stint at I-league. His former club, Param FC, felt proud of his achievements and is very hopeful that he will manage to make a name for himself at this stage and they went on to say that he even has the ability to become an international player and may represent him in national squad in time to come, looking at his anatomy and technical and tactical abilities. But at the same time they cautioned that his success totally depended on his focus and hard work to reach that highest level of football.
The Real Kashmir FC is presently being trained under the guidance of Head Coach namely David Robbertson (former Scottish International), and the team is assisted by Assistent Coach Manzoor Dar.
With this, Arun has become the only player from Jammu region to become part of this i-league journey of Real Kashmir FC. It is high time football lovers from Jammu region knew, recognized and appreciated young stars like Arun Naghial among them, who went against the odds of life to create a respectable place for themselves in their respective domains. On the other hand, it is also the genuine responsibility of people like Arun Naghial to help, support and guide many young footballers from region, who dream the same way Arun did, to become professional footballers to make everyone in their family, region and country proud of them.
Arun Pal Singh