Real Kashmir Football Club will have a new face during this year's I-League tournament - British citizen Kashif Siddiqi, who has been loaned to the club by the UK-based Oxford United.
After the news of Kashif representing the Srinagar-based club next season trickled in, there were reports of the footballer being of Pakistani descent and how he represented Pakistan in the SAFF Cup in 2008.
But Kashif was quick to clear the air about him not being of Pakistani descent. In fact, the English footballer was born to a Ugandan mother and Indian father, who hails from Lucknow.
“I don’t have any Pakistani heritage. My heritage comes from India and Africa,” Kashif clarified.
And as far as him playing for Pakistani team is concerned, the footballer explained few years back he had been approached by India and Pakistan federations to play for them.
“Indian side wanted me to give up my British citizenship and I did not want that as my mother had struggled so hard for that. This citizenship means my mother’s blessing to me. I represented Pakistan as an overseas British South Asian footballer,” Kashif said.
In fact. the 33-year-old is the co-founder of 'Football For Peace (FFP)', which was established in 2006 by FIFA and Chilean legend Elias Figueroa at the United Nations New York Office under the directorship of Dr Djibril Diallo and former secretary general the late Kofi Annan.
The FFP has been active in building platform of neutrality and dialogue.
Siddiqi, inspired by his mother's struggles from Africa to the UK, formed a new brand with global relevance and propelled this initiative internationally with an aim to reconcile humanity.
Kashif, who has vast experience of playing in the United Kingdom, United States and the Gulf, will be joining Mason Robertson and Loveday Enyinnaya, who have been playing for RKFC also known as 'Snow Leapords'. He is the second overseas players after Kallum Higginbotham signed by the club this season.
Before joining RKFC, Siddiqi will be attending the 74th United Nations General Assembly along with several diplomats with backgrounds in football, like FIFA Women’s World Cup winner Carli Llyod, former AC Milan defender Oguchi Onyewu and New York Red Bulls veteran striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.
According to a statement released by his club, Siddiqi will address the power of football on a panel at the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations that every country in the world uses football in building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people and the planet.
Both Kashif and his former club is excited about the fact that the footballer is going play for a Kashmiri football club.
“People know the challenges facing the Kashmir region and I want to get out there, start playing competitive football again and spread the word that Football For Peace is not all about talking at the United Nations,” said Kashif
“The game itself can play such a massive part in bringing peace and opening dialogue, all around the world,” added Kashif.
Oxford Club Director Zaki Nuseibeh was quoted in the statement as saying that they were delighted that Siddiqi was going to play for RKFC.
"As club owners we have a responsibility to continuously work on initiatives through which we can use football for the wider good. I am confident that Siddiqi will be a great asset to the Real Kashmir FC squad as a loanee from Oxford United FC. He will also undoubtedly be passionately carrying a message of peace to a region so desperate for it," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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