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Syed Waseem: A man on mission to popularise aainball in Kashmir

Post by on Sunday, July 4, 2021

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He left his job to follow his passion. He was criticised and discouraged, yet he followed his dream to popularise a lesser-known game in the valley. 
Syed Mohammad Waseem, 30, is on a mission to promote aainball not only in Kashmir but in India and beyond as well. 
Hailing from the uptown Natipora area of Srinagar, Waseem did his schooling at Muslim Education Trust (MET) Baghat and his Masters in commerce from Kashmir University.
To chase his passion, he left a lucrative bank job and got associated with promotion of the game since 2013. 
“I got inspired towards the game, when I was preparing for common aptitude test (CAT) in Delhi to get admission in some business school,” he said.
It was then when he incidentally met with a person namely Pratap Singh, now president Aainball Federation of India, who had an affiliation with this sports.
“We were part of an international conference which was held then in Delhi in which founder of Aainball game Mohammad Hammani, who invented this game in year 2009, also participated,” Waseem said.
“I am right now working to hone the talent of youth of Jammu and Kashmir for past several years. I desire to see youth playing at the international level, and showcase their talent at various international platforms and bring laurels to the country,” he said.
He said, currently due to Covid-19, things have halted a bit. “The pandemic has put our activities on suspension for the time being. As the situation is limping back to somewhat normalcy, we shall start our journey again.”
Waseem has represented India at various aainball international events from time to time. His first appearance was at International Aainball Congress which was held at Casablanca, Morocco in 2015 in which representatives from 55 countries participated.
He said they have been working hard for the past many years to develop aainball culture in Valley, India and beyond as well. Currently, he is the youngest promoter and member of Indian Aainball Committee and has been given the charge of chairman of the Coordinator Committee of Asia.
“I feel honoured and proud that I have and am representing my country” he said.
 Promotion of game
To make state teams, Waseem said, they started organizing camps for promotion of game in various states of India including in far-flung areas.
“In 2015, we got certified affiliation with Federation International Aainball.
“I am individually official Ambassador of Aainball in South Asia, I was also recently selected as chairman Asian Aainball Committee,” he said.
He said the game was being promoted initially in Europe, Africa, the US, and in Canada.
“We started its promotion in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan etc, and also kept organizing competitions in our country.
“In 2018, we organized a national level tournament in Haridwar, in which 12 states participated,” he said.
In 2019, they conducted the second National Aainball Championship in Chandigarh in which 14 states across India participated and Jammu and Kashmir emerged as the winner.
Waseem said they were planning to organize a national championship in 2020, however the plan couldn’t materialize due to COVID-19 pandemic. “We are putting in our efforts to organise some events and for the promotion of aainball as it is a no-contact game.”
“We approached people like DFL and societies in places like Noida, Gurgaon etc and motivated them to hold small events,” he said.
He said they are mulling to organise the upcoming National Aainball Championship-2021 in Kashmir.
“We are expecting participation from 20 states and all of them have completed their registrations,” he said.
Waseem said they have covered 250 districts in 25 states of the country for the promotion of the game. “We have selected ambassadors which includes teams in schools, colleges and universities in these districts. We also have involved around 10000 players throughout India.”
On the biggest achievement in the journey so far, he said is the participation in the 2019 Aainball World Cup. As many as 15 countries participated in Casablanca, Morocco in the top event. 
“India won silver; we lost to Jordon with a margin of 6 points.”
The passionate aainball follower said they mostly bear the expenses themselves as there has been no financial assistance from the government. “At times we get sponsorship by any entrepreneur or businessmen.
“For the 2019 World Cup we were sponsored by a businessman from Kashmir, Shabir Ahmad, who runs a business in UP namely Valiant group. Around Rs. 25 lakh were expended during the event.”
About Aainball, he said it is the basic structure of other sports and can be helpful in excelling in other fields as well. 
“This activity mainly is of 15 to 20 minutes and strengthens one physically as well mentally.”
He said Aainball is basically a sport that helps to develop focus and at the same time players gain agility and strength.
“Due to the mixed games and the colourful (red, yellow, green, blue) dress code, people are experiencing a lot of fun and entertainment, and are turning towards this game very fast,” he added.
However, Waseem said, they faced various obstacles during the promotion of the game. 
“As it is universal, that whenever anything unusual/new happens people show reluctance and refuse to accept, in our case too, it was not different.
“At times we were discouraged, criticized, but we didn’t give up and remained steadfast. Now, this game got acceptance and recognition internationally, though it is not popular yet in the valley. But we are moving in that direction as it includes all the athletic skills, which makes this game interesting,” he said.
He said even though there are a good number of trainers but there is lack of requisite infrastructure for the development of the game.
On future plans, Waseem said in the coming two to three years, “we are planning to create leagues like pro-kabaddi league; badminton league within Asia. 
“We are also working on the involvement of societies and corporators by making their teams so that this game could be taken to the grassroots level.
“We also want to make this game career oriented for children and players,” he added.
About the possibility of employment generation, he said, “we have coaches, trainers and managers from 250 districts across the country for whom we need to generate employment. 
“We are trying to open academies for them in schools and districts.”
He said they have brought the game to the notice of Youth and Union Sports Minister Kiran Rijiju, who also showed keen interest in it. 
“We are currently in touch with the Olympic Association, not only in India but with other stakeholders in Asian countries where the game has been promoted already.”
On its future potential in Jammu and Kashmir, he said there are around 250-300 local athletes who play this game.
He said they have appealed to the administration for allotment of 20/40 meters slots in indoor stadiums under Jammu and Kashmir Sports council (JKSC) and bringing this game under the ambit of SRO-349.
Waseem also said the youth must not discontinue participating in sports activities. 
“There are hurdles in every field, these hurdles must be overcome. I appeal to youth to chase their dreams and passion and don’t make any compromise in it,” he added.

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