A massive traffic jam had hit the heart of Srinagar city. The pandemonium of noises coming from the vehicles was narrating emotions of excited, anguished drivers and their fellow travellers. The case was no different with the pedestrians. All of them were moving in a particular direction. The rush of people was so thick that one could see nothing without feet and vehicles.
In a moment, everyone stopped at a place where a big billboard welcomed them.
“Real Kashmir FC welcomes you,” it said, alongside a picture of three people holding a football in the middle. It was the entrance gate of TRC, Football Turf, Srinagar.
It was exactly 2 in the afternoon, and as soon as referee whistled, the whole stadium roared, “Daaaaanishhhh, Daaaanishhh,” cheering on the only J&K based football club to play in I-League, was playing its second home match and crowd was already on toes. The hosts had won and drawn a game each, so far in their maiden I-League appearance.
In the meantime, a few people were discussing Real Kashmir FC’s squad, and one of them said, “Kaash bey czeee, cxour Kasherr aashan ginda, kya scene aashiha,” (Wonder! Had more Kashmiri players been playing, the scenes would have been so exciting!” )
While the other added, “Ahansa! Yemen chi sirf Danish, Hamad, Farhan gindaa, baki chi nebremm,” (Yes! They have just three active local players – Danish, Hamad and Farhan, while others are outside based)
Real Kashmir FC, the talk of the town in Kashmir nowadays caught the limelight after emerging the winners of 2nd Division I-League, earlier this year. They continued to impress by stunning, Minerva FC, the defending champions of I-League in the debut match. While, made sure not to let it go in the second match against Churchill Brothers, ending the game in a draw.
The football club owned by Shamim Mehraj, who is the editor of “Kashmir Monitor”, a daily published from Srinagar, has a power-packed squad led by Nigerian Loveday Enyinnaya and coached by David Robertson, a former Scottish footballer.
They also have known players like Gnohere Krizo and Mason Robertson playing for them. Meanwhile, the main attraction for people in the Kashmir has been the local star Danish Farooq, who fetched the player of the match award in the second match. Apart from him, there are some more local players in the squad.
However, many people in the Valley have expressed a desire to see more Kashmir based players in the team,
“No doubt, we love Real Kashmir FC, but we want to see more Kashmiri footballers playing for the club. It’ll both groom more players from Valley and will certainly uplift the passion for the game,” a football enthusiast in the crowd told The Bridge.
What “Real” Kashmir wants
In spite of not being a top-rated game in the country, football is one of the major games played across Jammu and Kashmir. People show a lot of interest in this game and the emergence of Real Kashmir has added more to it,
“You can see by yourself that how many people are watching and cheering for Real Kashmir in the stadium itself. You won’t see this huge gathering and excitement during any other game, here” said another fan who was watching the game.
Ab Majeed Kakroo, former captain of Indian football team, also said that inclusion of more Kashmiri players is a must thing,
“Real Kashmir FC is representing the whole state right now and making us proud. Though, there surely is a need of introducing more local players to strengthen the roots of football in Kashmir.” He said.
Adding more to it, Kakroo said that even in the squad they have a few local players who are yet to get the opportunity,
“They do have a couple of more Kashmiri players in the squad (apart from those who are playing). I personally also want to see them playing at least for some 10-15 minutes in each match, so that they fetch the much-needed exposure,” Kakroo said.
To know more about the matter of fewer players playing for Real Kashmir FC, The Bridge reached out to another international footballer from the valley who is also the assistant coach of Jamshedpur FC- Ishfaq Ahmed. He reacted to it in this way,
“Being Kashmiri, everyone wants to see more local players playing, however, we can’t flow in emotions and forget about the tough competition that I-League gives. There are a few players in the squad right now, and in future more will come forward,” Ahmed said.
“In 2nd Division, more local players played but to excel in a big league; you have to find a very balanced and experienced squad. These players (foreigners) not only help in building a team but most importantly guide the whatever number of local players play,” He further explained.
Real Kashmir FC on Tuesday will lock horns with Mohun Bagan, the heavyweights of Indian football and hosts have a golden opportunity to create the history as visitors haven’t experienced harsh cool conditions that Srinagar posses.