Syed Taha 24, a young Taekwondo player, is poised to become Kashmir’s first NIS qualified coach. Taha hails from the Narbal area of Budgam District. Taha is also known as the flagship of Kashmir. He started playing tawkando when he was just 3 years old.
Taha has won multiple gold medals at the district and state levels and went unbeaten in 25 J&K State championships from 2007-2012.
“There are three hundred taekwondo players in Kashmir who are without coaching. It is unfortunate that many taekwondo athletes are leaving this due to the unavailability of NIS coaches,” Taha said. Despite the horrible times and situations most of the athletes in Kashmir face.
Syed Taha has carved his way into the world of taekwondo, leaving an indelible mark on the world and aiming for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“One could hardly wall up one’s mind and build the castle of one’s dreams if one were born to understand the state of chaos and uncertainty. Coming from an area plagued by tension and insurgency couldn’t prevent me from making it to the international level… When I started my career, my delicate limbs stumbled to my feet when stepping. I have fought a lot in my twenty years of Tawankando career. I have a curfew when transport stays off the streets. I used to have to travel a distance of miles to reach The stadium said, Taha
Previously, Taha was criticized by different sections of society for choosing this as a profession. “Even my elders always told me not to waste time on any kind of excitement that has no future. Despite all that, I proved my doubters wrong and made it into the Indian team,” says Taha.
Taha hopes to compete in the Paris Olympics and become the first Taekwondo player from the valley.
In 2010 he made history by becoming the youngest player to participate in the Commonwealth Relay Team at the Commonwealth Games in India. He has long dominated the taekwondo arena, becoming the youngest player from Kashmir Valley to play for J&K in the senior team in 2018 and participating in the international ranking Olympic championship after just one year. He played almost every opportunity he got.
Despite his success to date, Syed Taha believes he could have won many more caps but is struggling due to a lack of professional coaching facilities.
“For many years I trained under the NIS trainer of Wushu Nisar Ahmad Mir, who is also the trainer of the Central Jammu and Kashmir Police Team due to the lack of qualified NIS trainers in Taekwondo. It was very difficult to train under a wushu coach even though he is a taekwondo player. A lot of brilliant players, like myself, suffer and worry about their careers because of the lack of qualified coaches,” added Taha.
He used to train at Atul International Taekwondo Academy in Jammu, which is over 300 kilometers from my home. “Because I was enrolled at Kashmir University, I couldn’t focus on my studies. I think a lot of other players suffered as much as I did, but I decided to do NIS coaching for a year so I could have a can contribute to the future of taekwondo. I don’t want young players to give up their ambitions because of the lack of qualified NIS coaches,” added Taha.
He missed many national championships due to the unpeaceful situation in Kashmir, but he kept his nerve and followed his passion. Those disappointments couldn’t stop him from becoming an international player and keeping an eye on the Olympics. To focus on, he is also a part-time cricketer and an inter-university gold medalist and Cricket Presidents Cup gold medalist. Also national kickboxing and karate players, as well as wushu, state gold medal winners.
Syed Taha is struggling with a cruciate ligament injury he sustained during an international match. He had an operation a few days ago and will hopefully come back at the end of the year. He has the potential, the experience and the performance that everyone believes in him and that he will make it to the Paris Olympics. He has contributed a lot in the field of sports and changed people’s negative mindset through his achievements and passion and is considered a future Olympic champion.
Majority of athletes in Kashmir start their martial arts career in taekwondo but after 8 to 10 years they switch to wushu, judo or another sport, all due to the lack of NIS qualified coaches making it difficult for them to focus on goals .
The Kashmir riots proved detrimental to Taha as he missed the All India University National in Taekwondo after being selected to captain the University of Kashmir. Due to the unprecedented situation in Kashmir, almost all eight nationals are absent. “Although I was an excellent player at the time, players like me moved to Jammu, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh in search of professional coaches to achieve goals,” added Taha.
All the time people were telling my parents that their son was wasting his time and that he should focus on his studies. Due to a negative mindset in society, people used to think Taekwondo was a normal fight that was not good for children.
They didn’t understand that it’s a sport that Taha suffered a lot for. Due to Taha’s constant efforts and temperament, he changed people’s negative perception, now they send their children to martial arts and they now tell him that it’s all because of Taha. “But I want to achieve more, I want to set a standard for myself and up-and-coming players and I don’t want the up-and-coming and younger players to go through what I’ve been through,” concluded Taha.
Taha said the government should step in to take practical initiatives to salvage the deteriorating and bleak future of taekwondo players across the valley.
He stressed that in relation to the district, NIS coaches should be appointed through which the hidden talents and prominence of aspiring Taekwondo players can be discovered.
(Mubashir Naik is an independent journalist based in Jammu & Kashmir and tweets @sule_khaak)