Oxford to Kashmir via United Nations - Kash Siddiqi hopes football can help bring peace
Last Updated: 21/09/19 9:39pm
Signed by Oxford United as a player and ambassador a month ago, Kash Siddiqi will next week address the United Nations General Assembly in New York before moving on loan to a team in India's flashpoint state of Kashmir.
Siddiqi co-founded the international arm of Football for Peace six years ago - a movement supported by the UN, which combines the power of football with diplomatic impact to break down barriers and bring communities across the world together.
He takes his message to the UN's 74th General Assembly in New York on Wednesday where he will be joined on a panel to discuss football's positive impacts by players including two-time FIFA Player of the Year Carli Lloyd and New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright Phillips.
Siddiqi will then link up with his new team-mates at Real Kashmir, who play matches in front of packed stadiums bursting at the seams in Srinagar, which is currently the subject of a Foreign and Commonwealth Office advisory which recommends British Nationals do not travel there.
"Going out on loan from Oxford to Kashmir could be challenging in some ways, but for me, I think it is a step in the right direction for what I stand for and what I am trying to do," he told Sky Sports News.
"Kashmir is one of the most militarised regions in the world and there has been conflict over it for many years between India and Pakistan.
"The work that I am doing with Football for Peace - and with my club (Oxford United) believing in what I am trying to do - it could be a good opportunity to show the power of football, because football transcends all of that.
"No matter what the political situation is, there is always a solution and I think sport is such a soft way to create dialogue between people. The Christmas truce matches in the World War are a perfect example of it - the troops stopped fighting and played a game of football.
"I'm not saying I'm going to go to Kashmir and stop the political situation, but I definitely think me going out there can contribute at some level even if that is just giving hope to some people in that region."
'Carrying a message of peace to region so desperate for it'
Oxford director Zaki Nuseibeh is backing Siddiqi to have a positive impact on and off the field in Kashmir, where mobile phone and internet services have been limited since August and curfews have been in operation.
"We're delighted that Kash is going to Real Kashmir," Nuseibeh said
"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 Kash 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."
'My mum is pushing me to go to Kashmir'
Southall-born Siddiqi is one of just over a dozen British Asian professional footballers in England and has had little choice but to embrace diversity throughout his life
His father hails from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, his mother born was born in Uganda and Siddiqi has also represented Pakistan at international level.
"My family is very worried, but ironically my mum is giving me the green light and is pushing me to go out there [to Kashmir," Siddiqi explained.
"I think everything happens for a reason, and I think this opportunity coming around is a story you probably couldn't write for a Pakistani international - with an Indian background through my father - to go and play Kashmir.
"I think it also helps contribute to dialogue with the UK through this tie-up with Oxford United and going out there as a loan player.
"But in terms of safety, yeah I have thought about it. I know right now the situation is really bad with a blackout of internet [and little or] no TV or news stories breaking through for the next couple of weeks.
"I guess it's quite hostile but I am trying to see beyond that because moments like this is where I think positive stories can make a huge impact. I am hoping I can make a little bit of a difference, no matter how long it is for. Hopefully I can contribute."