A professional football club from Srinagar, Real Kashmir, had travelled to Scotland in July during the off season for training.
Kashmir and football are no strangers to each other. Kashmiri youth’s affinity to the game can be imagined with its sportsmen going places. Yes, a professional football club from Srinagar, Real Kashmir, had travelled to Scotland in July during the off season for training. This is an indicator of how times in the state is changing for football. Four months after the Scotland trip, Real Kashmir was in Delhi last weekend to play friendly matches against Delhi United and ISL’s Delhi Dynamos.
The Scotland trip was a dream come true for Real Kashmir player Amir Rehman as per The Indian Express. Although Real Kashmir went down in both the games they played, Amir seems unaffected. When 23-year-old Amir told his father about the trip, he couldn’t believe that his son and his team were going on a serious tour. He did knew a thing or two about his son’s team. He was aware that the team was a part of the I-League Division II. But, after the trip, Amir is at least relieved that his father now takes his team seriously. Just like Amir, another man who is unfazed is Real Kashmir’s coach, former Scottish international David Robertson. “We are looking really long term. We want to win the second division first so we can qualify for the main I-League,” Robertson was quoted by IE.
If Real Kashmir qualifies for the league, it will be a huge leap for the team, which was started very modestly by Shameem Meraj, owner of the Kashmir Monitor newspaper. In September, the football club caught the attention of former Ghana international player Anthony Obodai, after Robertson posted a picture on Twitter of his team training, with Kashmir’s breathtaking scenery in the background. “David told me about the side and I said ‘if you want my help to build the side, I will come’,” Obodai posted on Facebook.
Now, after the club has garnered attention, just like Amir’s father, parents of other players are also optimistic. As per IE, Amir’s teammate Ishfaq Wani does not have a day job and relies solely on the salary the club pays him — Rs 10,000 every month. His father was initilally reluctant but after seeing his son’s commitment, he keenly follows the game. He also follows the J&K league matches where Real Kashmir finished second this season.
As per IE, Real Kashmir is slowly building momentum with the I-League qualification being the first goal to bring the club into the mainstream football. The club has a managed to build U-19, U-17 and U-14 teams and are planning for more exposure trips, an assistant coach, and talks with a London-based firm for more sponsorship.