Stone pelter to screen hero, Kashmiri footballer scores a hit

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SRINAGAR: When the images of young Afshan Ashiq splashed across the national media as a stone pelter in 2017, little did the world know about the Kashmiri footballer.Fast forward 2018. The 24-year-old is a local celebrity. Afshan is playing club football in Mumbai now and is part of Mumbai, Maharashtra team. She is also the captain and goalkeeper of J&K women football team. Earlier this year, reports had emerged about actor Gulshan Grover collaborating with his filmmaker son Sanjay to produce a film on the life of Afshan. The biopic, titled Hope Solo, will be directed by Manish Harishankar and written by Saiwyn Quadras, who previously worked on the screenplays for Mary Kom and Neerja.

Afshan, goalkeeper and captain of J&K team, in action on the field. Photo Courtesy The New Indian Express

The script for the movie has been drafted already and the shooting will begin in June. Afshan’s journey has been intriguing; her struggle to play football in the valley infected by insurgency wearing the blue jersey with Indian emblem is a story that speaks a lot, says Harishankar.

Harishankar had met Afshan last year when she had gone to Mumbai for football trials. “He told me that he wants to make a film on my life. He assured me that the movie will be solely based on my life without a tinge of politics or fiction,” she says.

While Afshan is excited about the film, her ultimate goal is to be part of India’s national football team. “I want to play for Indian woman football team. I am working very hard and hopefully I will be part of Indian team in the next two years. I want to bring laurels for the country,” Afshan says.

“Hope Solo, the captain and goalkeeper of the US team is my inspiration. Like her I am also the goal keeper and captain of my state team. I try to follow the way she trains, works out and practices,” Afshan says.

Incidentally, her biopic is named after her favourite footballer. Hope Solo will be produced in English and Hindi and aims for an international release.

Hailing from Bemina area of uptown Srinagar, Afshan became emblematic of the anger of the youth of the conflict-torn region after her image hurling stones at the security men in city centre Lal Chowk appeared in the media on April 24 2017.

Afshan, however, has no regrets. “I was provoked and in reaction I pelted stones at the policeman,” she says while recalling the incident.“I had to take a stand for the girls for whom I was a mentor and a coach. I did not pelt stones for the wrong cause. Had I not backed the girls, it would have sent a wrong message that their coach was not backing them. I pelted stones so that nobody commits anything wrong with the girls,” Afshan says.

The article first appeared in The New Indian Express

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