Ladakh’s picturesque ground hosts the highest-altitude football stadium in the country and among the top 10 in the world. It will soon be home to Ladakh’s first professional club, 1 Ladakh FC. The club aims to be the “cleanest and greenest” club in India, with a target to attain net-zero carbon by 2025. The team has already taken steps towards this goal, starting with the players donning eco-friendly kits that reduce energy consumption by 50%.

All players and staff must cycle from the hotel to their training ground in Leh. The club enforces a zero-plastic policy where players have customized aluminium water bottles. Players must also participate in local initiatives such as cleaning rivulets and community awareness programs.

Tashi Gyalson, chairman of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, said such an initiative is the need of the hour, especially for Ladakh, which has been experiencing the impact of climate change firsthand.

Ladakh received a boost in football in 2022, with its first step being affiliated with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in February last year. In December 2022, the team competed in the Santosh Trophy and drew 2-2 with Uttarakhand in their opening fixture. The Ladakh Football Association, founded only in 2019, sent a group of girls to represent their state at the U-17 Women’s National Championships.

The association will start a league in both Leh and Kargil districts in May this year. The winner will get into the 2nd Division of the I-League. 1 Ladakh FC’s first challenge will be winning the inaugural league. The club’s founder states it should be relatively easy since it will be the only professional club in the region, consisting of quality players.

The club has a unique idea for player trials: they will call on all ice hockey players and those who compete in winter sports. The club believes that scouting local players will provide a natural advantage over visiting teams, as playing at a high altitude is challenging. Oxygen levels average 65%, and they can drop even lower, making breathing hard for people. It could take a day or two to get adjusted to the conditions.

Even playing away, players who train in Ladakh develop good stamina, giving them a tremendous advantage. Playing at such a high altitude means players must be creative with their playstyle, as it is almost impossible to run continuously. High-press football will not be possible, so players will have to be creative while playing.

1 Ladakh FC’s green initiative is commendable and can inspire other professional clubs to take steps towards sustainability. The club’s efforts to be the cleanest and greenest in India is a step towards a sustainable future for the sport. Because of the climate change impact, everyone needs to play their part in reducing carbon emissions and environmental degradation. 

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