33-year-old Faisal Ali Dar from Bandipora in Jammu and Kashmir was awarded the Padma Shri in 2022 for the promotion of sports through Martial Arts and his crusade to keep youths away from drugs.
The secretariat of President Ram Nath Kovind once wrote an appreciative note to Faisal Ali- “We commend the contribution made by you for creating and promoting sports environment. It is hoped that your success story will spur other initiatives across the country.”
Faisal Ali Dar’s initiative has really turned the tides for the sporting fraternity of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian Union Territory, often in headlines for political reasons, is least spoken for its sporting achievements. But from there rose Faisal Ali, just like a phoenix, who never gave up in spite of several restrains.
Faisal grew interest in different forms of Martial Arts when he was in school. He would often go to the Nishad Park, a famous park in his locality, and tried imitating global icon, Bruce Lee’s moves. Soon after his graduation from Bandipora Degree College in 2008, Faisal fully devoted himself to Martial Arts.
The push, however, came from Kuldeep Handoo, the Dronacharya, who became a huge influence on him. When Faisal’s Wushu career did not bring him the success he hoped for, he switched to Kickboxing in 2008. Two years later, Faisal Ali Dar became a medal-winner at the Asian Kickboxing Championship.
As a sportsman, Faisal travelled to many places for competitions but it hurt when he found a dearth of participation from his home state (Jammu and Kashmir was an Indian state till 2019). He felt the need for a prolonged propagation of sports to raise the youth of Kashmir from doom and gloom to respite and happiness.
Faisal’s Ali Sports Academy came up in Bandipora in 2013. That year around 150 children enrolled themselves at the Bandipora unit. Dar used that inspiration and decided to open more schools in other districts. Today the Academy has a total of 17 units running effectively in different districts.
“There are many other places that we applied to, but couldn’t make them functional due to COVID.”
Ali Sports Academy does not provide only Martial Art programmes. As “not every person or every kid can do Martial Arts,” Faisal added more sports, like Rugby, Water Sports, Swimming etc. to make his Academy bigger and better.
“The ones who joined, my students; actually won’t call them students; they were my fans. They used to see me and were amazed. But they just didn’t know that they could learn it too. So I started teaching them in parks, school grounds, halls, and wherever I could. That became a proper training course in my Academy.”
The Padmashri Award has enhanced the reputation of Faisal Ali as a Martial Art coach. It is an inspiration to him as well but Faisal does not believe in glowing in his glory. He wants to move forward and continue contributing in the dual role of a sport coach and a life coach as well.
“Here I find that youth are getting attracted towards drugs. My target is get drugs ‘out’ and get sports ‘in’. There’s a Rehabilitation Centre in our Academy where we arrange counseling sessions for young people. We try to divert their minds from all the wrong doings and bring them towards sports.”
Dar believes that counseling the parents is also very important. He himself visits parents to convince them to allow their children to take up sports. He believes that there is enough talent in Kashmir but people need to understand that sports can be taken up professionally. He did not mince words when talking about parents of girls.
“Convincing parents of girls is hard almost everywhere, but here it’s a bit harder because sports culture is quite weak. So I have to explain to them that sports can become a profession. Girls here are made into doctors and engineers. They’re sent to different parts of the country and even out of the country for studies. So if they can go there, then there’s no reason why they would not be ready for sports?”
But at the same time the parents need to be patient with their wards because, “someone’s career can be made in 2 years, while someone else’s may take longer.”
Faisal Ali Dar has been in a long journey; a journey that he started alone from parks and playgrounds, but now he is elated to have so many people around him. Thus he dedicates his Padmashri to his family, coach, fellow players, students and definitely to his well wishers and people of Kashmir.
PoulomiKundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. Soon after she was selected an intern in Zee News, Kolkata.
After her post- graduation in English, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata.
In 2004, Poulomi moved to Delhi as a creative writer in an advertising agency, Brand Stewards Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, she again shifted her base for a better opportunity and that in Mumbai. There she got the job in Raa Media Pvt Ltd. as an associate director of two programmes for Doordarshan-Yuva and Paisa Vasool. In the meantime, she also wrote features in DNA as a freelancer.
Poulomi directs promotional videos, develops scripts for films for Corporate and NGOs. But an ardent sports lover, Poulomi always had an urge to contribute somewhere in the field of sports. Her love for sports started from an early age when she played gully cricket and football for local teams. Academics and professional hazards sometimes took her away from her passion, but it never died in her. She always nurtured the never-ending dream.
So she materialized her dream in the form of ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.