Mere participator’s a year back and now the champions of 2nd division I-League- meet the latest football fame of Jammu and Kashmir, Real Kashmir Football Club.
A Srinagar based football club headed by Shamim Mehraj– a Newspaper owner, recently did something exceptional and unexpected by emerging as the winners of 2nd Division I-League.
With this stun, Real Kashmir FC became the first team from Jammu and Kashmir to win the 2nd Division I-League and qualify for the 1st Division.
Nicknamed as the “Leopards of Kashmir”, Real Kashmir was founded just 2 years back in 2016 and has now grown to become one of the premier clubs of the state since then.
Despite being among the lesser followed sports in India, football is one of the major games played in Jammu and Kashmir. Though, like other games, there is no proper infrastructure as the state has only one top level ground that too is hit by the lack of facilities.
The long and winding road for Real Kashmir
Fighting all the odds, Real Kashmir proved that the utmost level of hard work and dedication is the key especially if one is interested in making a mark. You need to prepared to be focused until the dream is achieved; every obstacle must then be dealt with. Which is probably why the officials at the football club prefer not to focus on the challenges. That may get them sympathy but the road to success is about learning how to overcome the hurdles.
“If we will count the hardships, then we may end discussing them for months,” said the Assistant Manager of RKFC, Mr Umar Amin in a conversation with The Bridge.
“We started our preparations for the 2nd I-League way back in December 2017. Before starting the preparations, we made a squad.” Umer told us.
Building up the team
The squad had players from different regions including two foreigners
“We selected players from different places of country and hired two star players from outside country to make sure we get a strong squad,” he said.
Two foreign players included, Nigerian, Loveday Enyinnaya and Ivorian, Kouassi Yao.
Apart from hiring players from outside state and county, Real Kashmir impelled more on players from native place,
“No doubt, we hired players from outside state but we had a strong bunch of players from Jammu and Kashmir as well,” He revelead.
The inclusion of Scottish David Robertson as the head coach of club was one of the main reasons for team’s success.
“The entry of Legendary former Scottish footballer, Robertson, was a big booster for our club. His unique way of coaching helped our boys to make it possible,” said the General Manager of RKFC, Mr Showkat Akhter.
But it’s always not just about bringing a team together. That’s just the first hurdle crossed. What about training the team? In a state that is already bereft with political problems, sports brings hope. Teams are held up as examples of hope. To play is to defy the establishment. But to sufficiently make that statement and emphatically break the chains, it’s always easier said than done.
“Firstly, during winter it wasn’t possible to practice at Srinagar due to harsh weather. So, we had to practice outside home,” says Umer.
We had to pay around 5-6 thousand rupees to hire ground for few hours, outside the state,” Umer revealed.
Later, after the winter months, the problems do not end either
“After returning home, we thought we may practice without any barricades but that didn’t happen,” Umer said.
“As we have only single ground here, so we were given just 2 hours a day to practice. For the rest of the time, other clubs of city practiced there,” claims Umer.
The trick however, is to rise above every factor that tries pulling you down. Challenges will always be there. Focusing on those do not yield results. That fortitude is what defines champions.
“In spite of lacking the ground freedom, our coaches and players managed to make most of the time that we got to prepare,” said the GM, Showkat Akhter.
During the league, it was Nigerian Loveday who lead the team from the front.
“Our captain Loveday is a phenomenal player, a great defender and even better leader. He lead team and made sure players give it all on the field,” said Showkat.
There were players’ from multiple places but it never looked so when they entered into the field,
“We had players from different places but the combination was pretty good. In ground, it was a single group playing football to win.” He said.
Now, they are looking forward for the upcoming I-League.
“Emerging winners of 2nd Division was really something to cheer for but this didn’t end there. We are now looking to make mark in the 1st Division where we will compete with the best clubs of country.” Akhter said.
The club will be hiring more foreign players and would held trials for identifying new local talent as well,
“We will bring in more foreign players to make even stronger squad. Also, we will try to grab some new local talent,” he said.
Real Kashmir FC is hopeful of witnessing better infrastructure for the upcoming season,
“The infrastructure here is absolutely not upto the mark. Firstly, we just have one ground but that too lacks basic facilities,” Umer Amin told us.
The ground lacks dressing rooms and other facilities which could became an obstacle for the home team in coming season which is just months away.
“There aren’t separate dressing rooms in the ground nor the washrooms. Leading teams of the country would be landing here to play, so, the administration should look into this matter.” Umer mentioned.
Real Kashmir would be starting their preparations from the next month onwards,
“We will start our preparations for the I-League from July or August and will make sure to leave nothing unturned for making our team better.” Umer said.
RKFC will be filling the team’s personal requirements but adminstration must push to improve infrastructure,
“We can just say that we are hopeful that adminstration would do the best they can to improve things here.” Umer said while signing off.