Rebecca Beyerly in Srinagar

From National Geographic: “Kicking it in Kashmir

“A black flag waved ominously over a pile of rocks next to a soccer goal, in Gani Memorial Stadium in Srinagar, Kashmir. It was June 11, the first day of the World Cup. Just hours before Argentina and South Africa were to kick off the games, Tufail Ahmad Matoo, 17, was brutally killed on this soccer field. A large portion of his head was blown off after a tear gas canister, allegedly fired by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), shot him. His death was followed by over a dozen similar killings this summer.”

“Instead of remembering 2010 as the year of the World Cup, most young people in Kashmir will remember it as the year of the “Teenage Killings.”

“Last year Marcos’ team captain Basharat Bashir Baba ‘Basha,’ 19, and two other soccer players were selected to train with the Santos Soccer Club — a world-renowned team in Brazil. But in Kashmir young people are often denied their most basic rights. The other boys were allowed to travel but Basha’s opportunity to go abroad was almost dashed. His father was a militant nearly 20 years ago. As a result he was denied a passport. Luckily for Basha, local officials intervened and got him his travel documents. He’s happy he can travel now but worries about the 60,000 Kashmiris who are still waiting for their passports. In a place as volatile as Kashmir, Basha’s passport may be the least of his worries.”

“Like his coach, Basha is still pursuing his dream. He wants to play in Brazil, a country free of curfews, hundreds of thousands of armed soldiers, and harsh crackdowns.”

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