Indian footballer M. Okay. Kashmina lately grew to become one of many few ladies from the nation to play professionally in Europe after signing for Croatia’s first-division facet, ZNK Dinamo Zagreb, final month.
Dinamo is the ladies’s counterpart of the most effective males’s soccer crew in Croatia, one which developed gamers equivalent to Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Dani Olmo.
Its ladies’s facet has gained the first-division title as soon as and has completed within the top-three for the final 5 seasons.
“It feels really nice to get selected because we are not only playing for a new team but also a team outside India,” Kashmina mentioned, who adopted Ngangom Bala Devi, Aditi Chauhan, Manisha Kalyan and Jyothi Chauhan in taking part in within the prime division of the continent.
Dinamo has already benefitted from the presence of Chauhan – an attacking midfielder for the Indian nationwide crew – who scored a hat-trick within the league and in addition within the Women’s Cup ultimate.
Kashmina and Kiran Pisda, two children from India, grew to become the most recent additions to the facet, chosen by Women in Sports’ trials in Kolkata, final month.
“We are truly glad that we have brought new and quality players to our team because it is important to have healthy competition among the team,” Marija Margareta Damjanovic, Dinamo’s head coach and sports activities director mentioned. “We believe that they will adapt quickly and help our team to achieve our goals,” he added.
A jolting damage and violence in Manipur
In 2017, Kashmina, then a younger prospect from Manipur, gained her first Indian Women’s League (IWL) title with Eastern Sporting Union. She then joined Gokulam Kerala and gained the IWL two extra occasions, turning heads along with her attacking prowess.
At the National Games final yr, she gained the gold medal with Manipur.
But early in 2023, she suffered an ankle damage that pressured her out of motion for the primary half of the yr, after which, riots broke out in her dwelling state Manipur.
Kashmina’s profession appeared to hit a brick wall. “Whatever happened in Manipur disturbed us. A lot of people from our area resorted to selling vegetables. There was no internet, and my fitness preparations took a hit, with gyms closed most of the time,” she tells Sportstar.
Though Kashmina continued to coach by herself and along with her father, who himself was a state-level footballer, the household was rocked by monetary bother.
“We live close to the city area and my father drives an auto-rickshaw. How would we eat when he could not take his auto out…the area shut down with clashes all around Manipur. So, two months ago, there was a local football tournament in our area. My mother and I used to sell tea and pakoras (potato fries) there,” she says.
In June, fortune lastly smiled on her. Kashmina received an opportunity to trial for European sides, who had come to scout for gamers in Kolkata.
“Uss din Eid thha,” Kashmina says with a smile.
“I had never spent Eid with my family. Sometimes, I would be at the national camp, and the other times, with Gokulam Kerala. So, I thought of staying at home and not going because my last season did not go as planned,” she provides.
“But then I thought, ‘why should I give up even without trying?’”
An opportunity in Europe was up for grabs and a possibility to tug her household out of a slum in Khetri Leikai, a small settlement east of state capital Imphal.
“I cried a lot. I never brought that out (before) but there were nights when it got very difficult. After thinking a lot, I saw my parents and the people in my slum decided that this would be my final trial,” she says.
And she carried out identical to that, excelling in dribbling, passing and SSG (small-sided video games) drills on the coaching centre in Rajarhat, Kolkata.
Of the 27 women who had been shortlisted for the ultimate trials, solely two made it by to Dinamo. Kashmina was considered one of them.
The course of behind the ultimate trials
When violence erupted in Manipur, Kashmina, recuperating from her damage, selected to coach when the world slept – on the break of daybreak, along with her father working alongside her.
The 24-year-old can be prepared after her father returned from the mosque at round 5 AM. On chilly mornings, with no soul in sight, the pair would exit working within the streets towards the backdrop of barking canine and chirping birds.
“I call him ‘Ipa’,” she displays. “I told him that we must start our old practice regime. That involves a lot of running and he said that since I was (potentially) getting ready for Europe, this would help me to remain consistent with a large number of games.”
She would practice along with her father until 9 AM after which Dinku, an AIFF ‘E’ Coaching License holder, would take over the baton till midday. In the night, she would get into activation drills herself.
“I used to run around the roads alone, a lot. That too, around 11:00 AM or noon. Some people used to even joke that Kashmina has gone mad,” she laughs.
Her largest motivator has been her father, Mohammed Kashim Ali.
“Everybody in Manipur knows him. His dream was to play in Europe but since that could not happen, he motivated me to achieve that,” she says.
Kashmina had one other guiding mild in her life, Roshni – a judo athlete who can also be a pricey pal of hers – who helped her in testing occasions.
“I come from a very humble family and Roshni helped me with my nutrition. There were times when we did not have enough money for food and she sent the money. She gets financial aid from Khelo India and from there, she helped me out,” Kashmina says.
In her final stage of coaching for the trials, it was Roshni that grew to become her working associate.
“A few days before the trials, I lost a bit of weight, training with her and running with her. She used to tell me that I should save all my anger and that I needed to channel them at the trials. For three to four months, before the trials, she was instrumental in motivating me. So, I can never forget her and would like to thank her and my family for helping me reach here,” she says.
Kashmina’s worst days are actually behind her. Free of accidents and, with blue socks pulled as much as her knees, she is able to rub shoulders with a few of the greatest in Europe.
“Initially, I never wanted to be a footballer,” Kashmina says. “I clearly remember a story that my father narrated to me in my childhood, telling me to imagine that I was playing in a packed stadium, fans were cheering and journalists were running behind her to ask, ‘Kashmina, one interview, please!’,” she says.
“That story has finally come true.”