Basharat is an 18 year old soccer player coached by a gritty couple from South America. He has been selected to play in Brazil. This is his big ticket out of a state ravaged by years of brutal insurgencies — except he is being denied a passport by the government of India. Basharat’s father, Bashir, was a militant who surrendered and spent years in jail, endured torture at infamous interrogation centers of the same government. According to the unwritten rules in Kashmir, an ex-militant’s family is almost never granted a passport — that document of belonging of a country that claims Kashmiri identity as part of its own. Inshallah, football is about the difficulty of dreaming in Kashmir.
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‘Kashmiri teenagers in the early 90’s did not imitate Che Guevara and Malcolm X; militants walking the ramp of war determined the fashion trends’ Basharat Peer, author of ‘Curfewed Night.’
Flicking his cigarette, Bashir gazes into the camera with eyes that have seen worlds shattered: “I was petrified that he would lose sanity, follow my footsteps and become a militant”. Bashir Baba, a leader of the armed group Hizbul Mujahideen has now given-up the gun, but when he left his home to for the training camps of Pakistan, in the early 90’s, his son Basharat was two months old.
Basharat Baba belongs to a new generation of Kashmiris. He has grown up under the shadow of a silent war. His is the conflict generation, unfamiliar with what ‘normal’ should be. Yet, within it, football is his passion and fuel. For the past three years, Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentinean football coach, with his wife Priscilla, themselves bridging a great cultural divide, have revitalised Basharat’s life through their ISAT football academy, which also runs an exchange program to Brazil for talented players. Basharat is selected to go to Brazil, to play in the land of Pele. But Basharat has been refused a passport by the Government of India.
His crime? That he was born the son of a militant.
A personal narrative about father and son, player, coach and his family in the backdrop of the devastating conflict of Kashmir.
“There is no better way to understand Kashmir right now.”
— Pragya Tiwari, Tehelka
“This film pits the power of truth against the truth of power.”
— Dileep Padgaonkar
GOI Chief Interlocutor to Kashmir
Basharat & Bashir
Inshallah, Football is about 18-year-old Basharat ‘Basha’ Baba. Basha is a charismatic football player, captain of ISAT football-team in Srinagar, when we shot the film with him. Basha was one of the chosen few who was selected for an exchange program to train at Santos FC, Pele’s club, in Brazil. He be was denied a passport by the Government of India.
His crime? That his father, Bashir Baba, was an ex-militant – a leader of the militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen. When Bashir left his home in Kashmir to join the training camps in Pakistan in the early 1990s, Basha was two months old. Basharat belongs to a new generation of Kashmiris, having grown up under the shadow of a protracted conflict.
Inshallah, Football tells this story through Basha’s travails and Bashir’s recollections. Bashir’s attempts to bury his past to ensure that his kids didn’t yield to the temptation of picking up the gun as their contemporaries were (and are still doing), in the two decade-old conflict, made him distant and non-communicative. As we spend more time with father-and-son, Bashir opens up and Basha hears his father’s story for the first time. By the end of the film, father and son have embarked on a journey to find a way around their strained relationship.
Basha, having tried his hand at Bashir’s business, now plays football for a team in Goa. Bashir is running a number of successful businesses in Srinagar.
“Inshallah, football tells an authentic and human story of contemporary Kashmir, and of the consequences of two decades of strife in the lives of ordinary people.”
— Professor Sumantra Bose
London School of Economics
Marcos and Priscilla
Juan Marcos Troia (Argentina) established International Sports Academy Trust (ISAT) in 2007. By making the conflict ravaged land of Kashmir their home, they bridged significant linguistic, cultural and religious distances. Marcos is a FIFA accredited football coach and ISAT ran a training academy, a club, nodal training centres and several exchange programs for talented players from all over Kashmir to train in the best intentional clubs and academies, such as Santos in Brazil.
Priscilla Troia (Brazil) is not only mother and Spanish-teacher to her three-daughters, but also to her extended family – the boys of ISAT football team, of which, along with husband Marcos, she is strategic partner. The players are in-and-out of their warm, generous home where there’s always an endless supply of food-and-drink. She is an invaluable part of the ISAT family and in the lives of the players. And their three daughters look upon the Kashmiri boys as elder-brothers.
Marco and Priscilla’s dream is to find, train and represent world-class players from Kashmir. Marco feels that Kashmiris have the physical, mental strength and innate soccer skills required to compete at an international level for Football, not cricket, is the favoured sport in Kashmir. What Kashmir lacks is the training and access. In a short period of five years, Marcos and Priscilla, battling odds and inexplicable opposition, expanded their academy to five-remote locations across the Valley. In a state like Kashmir where tension is high and youth is squandered they provided not just training and skills, but an outlet, direction and a possible vocation for their most talented players.
Unfortunately, just two years after Inshallah, football was released, in 2012, after repeated threats to their lives, vandalism of their home, accusations of forced conversions (the Troias are Catholics) they were forced to abandon nearly five-thousand youth who were training and playing under ISAT and leave Kashmir. Their success, the envy of politically connected, rival associations and government apathy may account for the hostility and the lack of recourse, that finally pushed them out. Perhaps, in a land where so much blood has been split on account of sovereignty, every act by an outsider, no matter how noble, is perceived as an attack on identity.
They have now migrated to Afghanistan, their dream of producing world-class players undiminished.
“Fight the power by seeing this important documentary and sharing your thoughts widely.”
— Marilyn Ferdinand
CIFF 2011: Inshallah, Football (2010)
In the past twenty years there has been a tacit understanding between government and media that has resulted in a serious dearth of discourse presenting the Kashmir issue. ‘Inshallah, football’ attempts to claim some of that space. For me its the story of three remarkable men and a country; About a father who picks-up the gun for his beliefs, a football-coach, all the way from Argentina, who brings hope to discontented youth through football, and a young-man who’s dream to play football becomes a poignant metaphor for the discontents within India, the world’s largest democracy.
“You have bravely and interestingly portrayed a very complex situation in Kashmir, especially how some, perhaps many, people in India seem to ignore the Kashmiris’ plight. You have made the subject approachable and interesting by describing/using the soccer ‘situation’ and analogy.”
— Dr Christopher Snedden
Strategic and International Relations, ASIA CALLING & Author of Kashmir: The Unwritten History