Our 9th Interviewee for “Meet the BITSians in Sports” series is Sameer Qayoom (2007A7PS851P). He is a sports entrepreneur, an award winning football player and has received the BITSAA 30 Under 30 award for excellence in sports.valium for sale
Sameer successfully founded and organized the inaugural edition of the Kashmir Football Festival (2013). He was the Manager of Strategy for LoneStar Kashmir FC, J&K’s first professional football team and was the PR and Communications Manager for the J&K Football Association. He represented J&K in Football at three school nationals as well as the Subroto Mukherjee Cup, and won a Silver Medal in U-19 Football Nationals. He has also received the Government of India Scholarship for Excellence in Sports.
Apart from these, Sameer has experience across consulting, analytics, software, power & energy sectors and is at present one of the youngest Program Managers at Microsoft, Hyderabad.
In the following interview, Sameer shares his experience, achievements and the challenges he faced to go out of the way to promote Football back at his home, Jammu & Kashmir. Continue reading to find out more about his inspirational story…
Name: Sameer Qayoom
BITS ID: 2007A7PS851P
How does it feel to be named among BITSAA 30 under 30?
It was a great feeling, very satisfying to be recognized by your Alma Mater after having done something for the community. I had no idea that the work I had started in Kashmir few years ago would result in the culmination of something of this sort, a recognition as good as this.
What pushed you to pursue football at the first place? What do you like the most about it?
I have been interested in football right from my childhood and used to play right from school level, to district, and have played few nationals as well. Football is by far the most popular game in the world. Its one of the best games to keep you fit as you have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and adhere to a daily fitness regime. You cant just directly go and play football, you have to warm up and stay fit regularly.
How did you keep yourself active and involved in football while working at the IT sector?
I used to play on weekends mostly, apart from having a keen interest in upcoming football start-ups and academies in the country. I used to keep track of the work they do, their partnership with schools and football clubs to raise a footballing culture within the youth.
What inspired you to quit your comfortable IT job and start promoting Football in Jammu & Kashmir? Was it something you had planned since the beginning?
I always wanted to do something for my people back home, any sort of event. I was working in Delhi in 2012 and I attended this corporate football event organized by the Football Link, a Delhi based football start-up. It was a very innovative 5 a side Futsal event, with the main football ground being broken into 4 small grounds. They were able to have 4 matches at a time, participation was good, and the event was a huge success. This was the final inspiration I needed to emulate this in Kashmir.
What challenges did you face while starting the Kashmir Football Festival, which was the first of its kind in the state?
The Football Link helped me hugely with the logistics and planning, their team including their founder, Chetan Mishra, were in Kashmir for the event inauguration. The biggest challenge was convincing the local state football association to give us permission to hold an event there. Since something of this kind had never happened, it took a lot of planning and convincing before they allowed us in. We convinced them we have events for all age groups, professional teams, and even for girls. This ensured we had their full support.
Any memories from the first tournament by the Kashmir Football Festival? How was the participation? Are you planning any event in the near future?
The highlight of the event has to be that we had matches under flood lights for the very first time in the states’ history. That was the toughest thing to pull off, we had to speak to the state power department, and form a partnership with ALBA – the company which provided the lighting equipment. Support from both these parties was essential in installing the lights on the ground.
The participant was huge. We had around 200 teams across various categories. U-15, U-17, senior level, Professional clubs, Super division, and then Girls category and the NGOs. These NGOs were all teams from orphanages whom we provided free kits and refreshments at the venue.
Any future events, well this experience was fantastic while it lasted, but you need long term investment to sustain such an initiative and keep it alive. So as you are aware, infrastructure in India is not great. In Metro cities many private football arenas are coming up, well funded and with great initiatives. That’s something i would like to do for Kashmir as well in the long term. Currently while I am away from the place, I am still actively involved in strategies and planning initiatives for the J&K Football Association in coordination with the AIFF. I’m quite close to the JKFA President and often discuss plans with him for upliftment of the game in the state.
You have encouraged and helped many enthusiasts pursue football in Jammu & Kashmir. How does it feel to have fulfilled so many dreams?
When I think back of the Kashmir Football Festival, I think of the buzz around the grounds when the matches under lights would start. Small school kids sitting there amazed, living that experience to the fullest. Giving such an opportunity to your community is fulfilling.
You were a state level football player, representing your state at 3 National level games and have won a silver in U-19 Football Nationals. Any advice to the budding footballers?
I think if you have the love for the game, you would always go that extra step to make your mark. My advice would be stay active in youth academies apart from your school/college teams. Play different formats of the game, including the now famous Futsal. That would improve your game and make you technically more accomplished.
You are back as one of the youngest Program Manager’s at Microsoft. How did you manage to keep in touch with the IT sector and did your experience with football startups help you there?
This experience is something I wanted to share. When I passed out of college and during placements, my Cgpa was <7 so I couldn’t clear the CGPA criteria for the top companies. I knew I had to work on my profile, and after some years, I would apply again. My work on football, plus my work with local NGO’s in Kashmir to help the underprivileged, plus my brief stints in technology startups, apart from my routine IT jobs, all these experiences took my profile to another level. Doing what I had done in ~5 years, I could apply for jobs which normally require an MBA. In between all my endeavors in Kashmir, I worked on Power Project in the state as an IT manager, and that gave me good experience to apply for a more challenging role at a company like Microsoft. I also used to read technology blogs to stay in touch with latest trends in the industry. The Progam Manager role at Microsoft which I am in now, my peers have many more years of experience, most have an MBA. The only reason I was chosen was because of my endeavor and appetite for success, which I had proven with my work in all these areas, and that convinced them to hire me. With all these experiences comes maturity as well and it naturally reflects in your interviews. And yes, they did not even ask my CGPA! I am thankful to God that all my hard work paid off, and certainly to my parents who always supported me in coming back to Kashmir and doing what I loved to do.
Lastly, how does playing football keep you fit? Any special diet you follow? Any advice to the BITsian community to stay fit and healthy?
My mother in a Nutritionist, but funnily enough I’ve never taken a diet routine from her ! I think if you are a sportsman, you would naturally want to always be fit, whether you are playing or not. What I would say is even if you are extremely busy with your routine work, or you cant find anyone to play with, at the least go for running or join a gym. Pick up a football and go to the local park and play with yourself, try new tricks or kick-ups, that would ensure you are always in love with the game !
Interviewed by: Suchita Pati (2011A3PS269H)