A South American footballer is changing football scene in Kashmir. For a start, he plans to send two young footballers to a Spanish club. Haroon Mirani reports.
Continuing a rare excel streak in football, Kashmir’s young Messis and Ronaldos are competing to display their skills in European clubs in coming months.
Kashmir’s football scene has received a fillip after a former Brazil coach has taken unto himself what Kashmiris have been thinking impossible.
Coaching young soccer aspirants, Argentinean born Jaun Marcos Troia is currently training around a dozen players. Two most skilful among them will go to Spain to play in a professional club.
“We have selected 11 players and from them two will finally be selected for going to Spain,” says Marcos. These eleven players were selected after a number of trials. “They have been continuously trained over the last one year. During that period, they greatly enhanced their skills.”
Of the eleven candidates selected, nine are from Srinagar district and one each from Ganderbal and Budgam.
“It is not just football, we have to train them in every respect so that they are confident enough to live in Spain without any problems,” says Marcos.
The 11 players are being taught Spanish language and customs by Priscila, Marcos’s wife.
Besides learning the art of football at a professional club in Spain, the two players will also be given a chance to play at least 35 matches during their eight months stay. If the players succeed in impressing clubs in Spain, there is a chance that other professional clubs may also offer contracts. “This year, it is the start. I will make it a regular feature to send two Kashmiri students to Spain,” says Marcos, adding “Inshallah,” the Arabic word for God willing, he has picked from locals.
Marcos coaches these young footballers at Polo View and Amar Singh college grounds. Now the government has given him a go-ahead for using Bakshi Stadium exclusively. The allotment, according to Marcos, will bring in more quality to his training due to the availability of a good turf and no time limit. He trains students after the school hours.
Marcos is happy with the response to his programme in Kashmir. “I have been getting huge response from both students as well as their parents,” says Marcos. “Their perception towards sports has changed and they want their wards to excel in football.” If the trend continues, He believes that the football scene in Kashmir will change dramatically.
Besides coaching, Marcos has also conducted a number of football tournaments in Kashmir. Even in winters, when life comes to a standstill, Marcos conducted two tournaments that got a huge response.
Marcos has a registered body by the name of International Sports Academy Trust (ISAT), under which he trains the students. “My organisation is registered with the local government and JK Football association,” says Marcos.
Marcos had been coaching in New Delhi for ten years before he stumbled upon Kashmir. “I was there trying hard to gain entrance for football in India,” says Marcos. “But in India, the sports scene is overwhelmed by cricket.”
Despite trying hard, Marcos was not able to progress much in New Delhi as he found the people as well as climate unsuitable for football.
“Even in Delhi most of my best players were Afghanis or Iranians because of their physique and diet,” says Marcos.
It is from these players that Marcos came to know about Kashmiris. “They told me that Kashmiris were a different race, closer to Iranians and central Asians than Indians. The diet in Kashmir and central Asia is similar,” said Marcos.
Non Vegetarians are the most preferred in football due to the need for energy. Besides, stamina also plays an important role, which Marcos found abundant among Kashmiris.
Marcos started his camp in Kashmir in May 2007. Since there has been no looking back. In 2007 alone, Marcos coached 300 players. In the year 2008, around 700 students passed from his academy. And in the current year, the number of students has already reached 700.
Marcos is also being credited with reviving and streamlining football coaching in Kashmir. “Earlier there used to be football coaching for just a couple of months, but now I conduct it round the year,” says Marcos. “Cold or hot weather doesn’t hamper our classes and we rest only on rainy or snowy days.”
Describing his goals in Kashmir, Marcos says that he is working to spread football in areas where it has not reached to a level as in Argentina and Brazil.
“People like me work in places where we can do social service with sports,” says Marcos. With the help of sports, Marcos tries to turn around the lives of underprivileged and talented kids.  “Here children do not have so much of scope in alternative fields like sports, so we help them in that way.”
ISAT mission is funded by individual sponsors as well as organisations in Europe and other countries. “There are many people who work for the spread of football and they are always eager to help me,” says Marcos. “I submitted them the project of football reviving in Kashmir and they accepted it.”
Despite having a fertile climate for the development of football, JK team has been unable to win any major tournament for a long time. Marcos attributes the problem to preparation as well as selection. “You cannot expect wonders with a training of a couple of months and faulty selection,” says Marcos. To be the best, he recommends around the year training. “The teams competing for next world cup prepare from the moment one world cup ends that is for complete four years,” says Marcos.

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