Kashmir’s recent history has been chaotic to say the least, but valley’s dark clouds have a silver lining in the most loved sport in the world. For the last 2-3 years, football has been a source of relief for the people.
The beautiful game as we call it in footballing parlance, has given the locals hope that there’s more to Kashmir than violence and chaos. One fine example showing the regions’s prosperity is Real Kashmir Football Club. Established in 2016, the club has already broken all barriers to make themselves count with a third-placed finish in the recently-concluded iLeague.
They were also the first football team from Kashmir to participate in the country’s top division.
What draws one’s attention is the fact that this club won the iLeague second division on the last day of their campaign to earn promotion to the country’s premier iLeague.
Their story begins with two friends, Sandeep Chattoo and Shamim Meraj, who wanted to do something for the young boys prompting them to buy footballs for them. That decision paved way for the foundation of Real Kashmir FC.
“Everyone has a reason to smile in Kashmir now,” owner Chattoo said on how the people in Kashmir have embraced the new found love for the game.
RKFC finished third in the iLeague 2018-19 season with their remaining match against Minerva FC scheduled later this month. No matter the result, RKFC will still be third in the league.
With a capacity of 15,000 spectators, the TRC ground is owned by the Jammu and Kashmir Football Association and is the home ground for Real Kashmir FC for the 2018-2019 I-League season. The stadium remained jam-packed throughout RKFC’s home matches with fans thronging in huge numbers.
Speaking exclusively to Indiatimes, RKFC’s coach and former Scottish footballer David Robertson was all praises for his team’s progress. “I am really delighted with the progress of the team, we played some really tough games and managed to beat really good team in the season.”
“I am really happy with the performance of the team, we lost a couple of important matches during the end of the tournament but I guess it’s football,” Robertson added.
Incidentally, Robertson also convinced his son Mason to play for Real Kashmir despite offers from top European teams.
Since then, Robertson has recruited his own son, Mason Robertson, 24, to play for Real Kashmir. By the end of the 2017-2018 season, several Robertson relatives were in the stands at the team’s home stadium in Srinagar, to watch Real Kashmir win the 2nd Division title.
Midfielder Danish Farooq, who was pivotal to his team’s success, attributed RKFC’s success to the fans’ support. “People in Kashmir have always supported the snow leopards irrespective of the fact that we come third or last, football in Kashmir has given us a reason to come together and perform well for a better place”, he said.
From a simple idea in keeping the children busy in Kashmir to giving birth to a full-flegded football team, Real Kashmir Football Club has come a long way.
We salute the resolve of this football team and their success in such a short time.