Srinagar: Hundreds of enthusiastic football lovers turned up here on Sunday on an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon, to witness the first-ever I-League football match played in Kashmir.
The 2nd Division I-League match between the Valley's LoneStar Kashmir Football Club (LKFC) and PIFA, Mumbai, played at TRC Ground, attracted a huge crowd on this cloudy afternoon as the stadium was jam-packed with many lovers of the game not able to find seats.
The opportunity to watch top level football players, along with the enthusiasm to support the home team, drew people from the city and other districts of the Valley to witness the game.
The boisterous home crowd was silenced early in the first half as the Mumbai club took the lead. The visitors led by a solitary goal at the breather.
However, the home team came out with purpose in the second half and scored two goals in quick succession to take the lead.
The LoneStars seemed to be coasting to a victory but an equaliser for the Mumbai club put a dampener on the enthusiasm of the partisan crown and the home team had to settle for a draw.
"This is for the first time that such a match is being played here. We are getting to watch many national and international-level footballers and it is also the first time that Kashmir is hosting an I-League match," Muzammil Ahmad, a football enthusiast, who had come from central Kashmir's Ganderbal district to watch the game, said.
Ahmad said such matches here provide the youth an opportunity to watch the game closely and develop interest.
The organisers of the game also believed that such events would help in popularizing football in the Valley.
"Events like this will go a long way in popularising the game of football in Kashmir. We should have more of such events to attract the youth towards the game," president of Jammu and Kashmir Football Association, Zameer A Thakur said.
Thakur said the JKFA is reviving the game in the Valley, where the youth otherwise are more interested in cricket.
"We are doing our best to attract youth to the game. Cricket is very popular here and a lot of youngsters are attracted towards that game, but we are reviving football activities here and I am sure the game will become more popular," he said.
He said 11 clubs were participating in the event, with each team playing matches on home and away basis.
"The preliminary rounds are being played in conference system with the teams being divided into Eastern and Western conferences. Top three teams from each conference will qualify for the final round of the 2015-2016 season of 2nd division I-League," he said.
LKFC has played four matches so far winning one, losing one and drawing two, including today's result against PIFA Mumbai.
The home team will play another game here on December 20.
LKFC, which belongs to a business house of the Valley, has been supported by JKFA and State Sports Council which provided the ground for the team -- a criterion for being eligible for the championship.