Wednesday Aug 04, 2021
LONDON: Businessman Raja Suleman Raza has bought the Mirpur Royals franchise to play in the Kashmir Premier League (KPL) as a tribute to Britain’s nearly one-million strong Kashmiri community, most of which traces its roots back to Mirpur in Azad Kashmir.
Raja Suleman Raza, the president and co-owner of the Mirpur Royals team, said that he decided to buy the franchise because more than a million Kashmiris live in Britain and the city of Mirpur is also known as Little England.
"Mirpuris in Britain are among the most distinct diaspora ethnic groups, known for their unique language and culture and the role people from Mirpur have played in the last 50 years," he said.
Raza said that Mirpur’s connection with Britain has made it a distinctive place and “residing in the UK, the real ambition to acquire the Mirpur Royals franchise in the KPL was not only to strengthen this bond and relationship between both countries but to promote sports and cricket and offer an exciting platform to the young and aspiring sportsmen and women in Kashmir."
Speaking to Geo.tv, Suleman Raza said that his decision to acquire the Mirpur Royals franchise was driven by his desire to work for the betterment of Kashmir and to put the name of Mirpur and Kashmir on the global map.
“After the KPL was announced, hundreds of people from Mirpur in the UK asked me to purchase the Mirpur Royals and create its connection with the biggest Mirpuri community outside of Mirpur.
The people of Mirpur, he said, take immense pride in their culture and their origin and they want to celebrate it through soft power, such as sports.
"Over the decades and through three generations, the people of Mirpur have preserved their culture,” said Raza.
He added that introducing cricket in Kashmir will open up doors of economic opportunities for Kashmiris and it will prove to be a shot in the arm for the prosperity of the region.
Through Mirpur Royals, a brand will be created that the people of Mirpur and Kashmir will take pride in and own it for the immense value attached to the name and what it stands for," said Raza.
He highlighted that Mirpur Royals was the first team in the Kashmir Premier League to sign Kashmiri player Salman Irshad as a demonstration of the commitment to promoting genuine Kashmiri talent.
In May this year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had honoured Raja Suleman Raza, Bilal Saqib, and Arif Anis with the “Point of Light Award” for humanitarian services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Suleman Raza’s base, the group ran a “One Million Meals” campaign to support the National Health Service (NHS) workers and other frontline workers.
The One Million Meals campaign has received support from sporting stars such as former footballer David Beckham and boxer Amir Khan, while it has inspired hundreds of volunteers to help with communications and deliveries, and local companies who donated food and healthy drinks.