Far from the cheering and jeering cityside football crowd, some kids regularly turn a desolated corner of the Nishat Garden into a lively football turf. As they lately came to play their drubbing and dribbling game under the towering Chinars, Free Press Kashmir’s photo chief Wasim Nabi captured their garden game.
Autumn brings about a heavenly change to the Chinar leaves in the Kashmir Valley. The vibrancy shifts towards rust. With serenity in the environment, it also brings with itself the shades of intangible beauty.
Spreading the season’s delight, Srinagar’s Nishat Garden hosts some playful kids, alongside sightseers and visitors, who’re lifting the autumnal mood of the garden at the moment.
The ground at the desolated corner, bereft of any patch of bareness, was draped by the fallen leaves – wilted and crispy – looking rich in all possible shades of red and brown.
A small bunch of children in their woollen attires, were playing football in frenzy, crunching the brittle Chinar leaves under their unsteady feet, their faces reflecting the indifference about the football gear.
They didn’t bother about studded shoes, shining shin guards, jolly jersies, brawny bars, or revered referees. All they had was a rugged football, few of their schoolbags and clothes marking the goalposts, and the autumnal leaves beneath.
After the casual game which lasted about thirty minutes, I got a chance to speak with them.
Seeing their flushed faces and runny noses, I enquired whether they felt cold at all. “We play to warm ourselves,” said a shy kid. “Once you run and play vigorously, you hardly feel any sort of chill.”
While playing, they seemed to enjoy the crackling sounds of the crispy leaves while joyfully running upon them.
But what utterly intrigued me was that when I asked one of the kids about the absence of a referee, and he replied, “For what do we need him? We love each other. We do not cheat. We are all our own referees.”
For the day, they demonstrated a riveting game, without any foul play. Some even aired the typical football attitude while eying for the goal.
But as they Rise as ONE, their sporting spirit made one believe that indeed better tomorrows come from today’s hard work.
“Some wish for it, we work for it,” said a smiling footballer, donning a black jersey. As he resumed his play in the backdrop of majestic Chinars, his body language seemed to suggest: It isn’t the hours you put in, but what you put in the hours.
It’s this winning philosophy that put these kids on a different zone. The world around them might be locking horns on bigger grounds in front of chanting crowd, but for them, the game is all about playing hard, smart and together.
And for that, attitude is everything for these garden gamers. It’s what you do before the season starts that makes you a champion is the belief that they carried with themselves.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down,” one huffing boy catching his breath said, “it’s whether you get back up.” And it doesn’t take athletic ability to hustle in the garden, their home turf.
And while maintaining their bonhomie, they seemed to tell each other at the same time, by wearing a hard-line body language of an unyielding opponent: I’m the footballer you were warned about!
And, that’s how they roll!
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