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Downtown Heroes: The Football Club That Is Changing Lives And Perceptions In J&K

J&K: Downtown, which was previously an epicenter of stone pelting and dread, is changing. Downtown Heroes Football Club has become an antidote to drugs, and it is also changing its identity. In 2020, a little beginning by two downtown youngsters has done miracles, and it has now grown into a campaign with people participating on a daily basis. Hanan Bashir and Manzoor Bhatt began this trek alone, but people kept meeting them until they completed it today. 

Hanan had always wanted to get his area in good books, but when he saw his neighbor’s young man drunk, he was shocked and decided to do something for society, for his area, and he, along with his friends Manzoor Bhatt and Kaiser Bhat, took the initiative to bring about change through sports, and the Downtown Heroes Club was born. 

This club not only began the road of assisting youngsters, but it also changed the identity of Downtown, which was formerly known for terrorism and stone pelting, and is now known as Downtown Heroes FC.

“Over the last three decades, downtown has lost all its former glory,” said club owner Hanan Bashir. We have largely achieved what we set out to achieve; we want Downtown to be known for the good things again. We have also tried to keep the youth away from drug addiction and have also been successful,” he added.

The club’s membership ranges from 15 to 25 years old. The team began playing at the Islamia College stadium in Downtown and immediately came to prominence on the country’s domestic football landscape.

The Downtown Heroes have been promoted to the I-League Division 2 for 2022-23. The Downtown Heroes are also the champions of the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association Professional League. The team got another boost in August when Downtown Heroes competed in the Durand Cup, Asia’s oldest football tournament.

“We wanted to show the world that we are not bad people and so we decided to start with our own club in the area. Four of our boys are playing in the professional clubs of the country. We are the first local club with all local players from Kashmir to take part in the Durand Cup tournament. The future of youth is also bright,” said Club CEO Mushtaq Bhatt. Players affiliated with the team believe that Downtown Heroes Football team represents a transformation and a fresh direction for the kids.

Club player Momin said, “This is a change especially for the downtown, where nowadays the youth are going towards drugs, but now when they see that the boy from the downtown is on TV and is with the players of the national team, they get motivation and he also tries to improve his  life, I am hopeful that a lot will change, yes it will definitely take some time but there will be change.”

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