Srinagar: Real Kashmir Football Club will have a new face during this year’s I-League tournament — British citizen Kashif Siddiqi — one of the founders of ‘Football for Peace’, who has been loaned to the club by the UK-based Oxford United.
The 33-year-old Siddiqi 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. Born to a Ugandan mother and Indian father, who hails from Lucknow, Siddiqi is very excited for playing with RKFC.
Clearing the air about playing for Pakistani team, the footballer said 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,” Siddiqi said.
“I represented Pakistan as a overseas British South Asian footballer. I don’t have any Pakistani heritage. My heritage comes from India and Africa,” he said.
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, says the website of FFP.
The 33-year-old has vast experience of playing in the United Kingdom, United States and the Gulf.
He 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.
RKFC, owned by Sandeep Chattoo and Shamim Mehraj, featured in this year’s Durand Cup and the team, coached by David Robertson, topped their group and qualified for the semifinals which they lost to Mohan Bagan in extra-time.
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.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity and I am so proud to be invited to talk to the United Nations and build on the constructive dialogue that we have had with so many organisations and so many brilliant people all around the world. This is something I believe so passionately in and an important step for Football For Peace,” he was quoted in the statement issued by his club.
“At the same time I have been training hard at Oxford and have been made to feel part of an amazing football club. I can’t thank them enough and I feel fit and ready to go with the next exciting part of this project which is to go out on loan to Real Kashmir, which will happen soon after I get back from America.
“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: the game itself can play such a massive part in bringing peace and opening dialogue, all around the world.”
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.