The first-ever sports festival held at Yasin draws a large number of people from across Gilgit-Baltistan
The first-ever winter sports gala held at Shahi Bagh Yasin has rekindled the hope for reviving sports and tourism in the valley. The event was aimed to promote tourism in the Yasin Valley as well as to engage youth in healthy activities and provide much-needed entertainment opportunities to the local people.
The event was organised by the Yasin Winter Sports Club (YWSC), which is a community initiative. Overall, eight men and four women teams from Ghizer participated in the two-day event which was held after the district administration cancelled the famous Khalti festival owing to weather conditions and risks involved in the ice cover of the lake.
The cancellation of the festival prompted a strong reaction from the people as well as sports enthusiasts on social media criticizing the administration and the local political leadership. Social activists and youth took to the social media with the hashtag message #YasinWinterSportsFestival posting stunning photographs and videos of Shahi Bagh of Taus, Yasin valley that was trending on the microblogging social media handler.
In the finals of women ice hockey, the Yasin Janbaz team defeated Khalti by two goals, and Chandni was declared woman player of the match.
In the finals of male ice hockey, Yasin Janbaz defeated Ghizer Blossom Inn by 1 goal, where Sadaqat was given the man of the match award. Janbaz’s Azmat Ali was declared man of the series.
A rugby game, traditionally known as ‘Dap Dechum’ was also played between teams of senior citizens. Team Baba-e-Yasin beat Yasin Legends by three goals.
The closing ceremony was attended by GB Assembly Member Ghulam Mohammad, GB Council member Ayub Shah, Winter Sports President Col (r) Amjad Wali, CM spokesperson Ali Taj, CM Complaint Cell chief Ateeq Peerzada, Deputy chair Sarkar Abbas, and others.
People from across Ghizer District and other parts of Gilgit-Baltistan thronged the Chumarkhan valley blanketed by snow to enjoy the festival. Besides sports activities, traditional dance and musical performances were also displayed on the occasion to beat the shivering temperature.
Talking to The High Asia Herald about the objectives of the initiative, Yasin Winter Sports Club (YWSC) President Shah Rahim said there were several untapped avenues and opportunities for engaging youth in healthy activities and promoting tourism such as winter sports in Yasin.
“There is a need for creating facilities for such festivals to diversify sports and tourism to create a link in the same chain,” he exhorted.
About the initiation of winter sports in Yasin, he said it started on a trial basis for which the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Winter Sports Federation had provided a water tank and ten pairs of shoes.
“We started training a few interested individuals in a frozen water tank,” shared Mr Rahim, adding that initially, his club received registration from four girls and 16 men.
About social taboos and other challenges, he said cooperation from civil society members and the interest shown by the parents made it possible for them to set up the first-ever Yasin Winter Sports Club.
Subsequently, the president of the club said, two separate teams of boys and girls were formed who also participated in competitions at district and provincial levels. Besides sports, the club imparts vocational training to the players as well, he added.
This year 20 girls and over 70 boys joined the club and received training. They also participated in the national ice hockey championship held at Ghulkin, Gojal recently.
Regarding the positive outcome of the festival and its impact on society, Mr Rahim said that the lack of opportunities for healthy activities has led to growing frustration among the youth giving rise to social ills, crime, and suicide cases.
Events like this are essential to eradicate these evils, through increased interaction between the people, and to show the soft image of Yasin to the guests coming from outside, he suggested.
“Such activities will be helpful in attracting domestic and international tourists who will certainly flock to these areas and contribute to the development of the region,” he added.
Talking about the role of the administration and the government, he said that although there was no financial support from them, AKYSB has contributed its share and a major part of the cost and arrangements had been contributed by local people.
He also hoped that the fund that was earmarked for the Khalti Festival, could be released for this event.
Referring to the role of political leaders, he said that they fully participated in the festival which was very encouraging and a welcome gesture.