NEW DELHI: IT has been 100 days since the Indian government abrogated Article 370 with a communication blockade ensuing in the Kashmir Valley. While the struggles of the people living there have been well documented, players of Real Kashmir have also seen bleak days but the entire team is looking towards the upcoming I-League season with a renewed sense of purpose.The players had just landed in Kolkata to take part in the Durand Cup when the government’s announcement came. It was a difficult time, more so as their opening match against I-League champions Chennai City FC was two days away. News started trickling in that phone lines were being shut and communication was severely hampered.
“It was difficult initially as most of us could not call home. But as professionals, we knew our job was to concentrate on the sport and give our best,” local boy Muhammad Hammad said. And they did more than that as they went on to beat Chennai. “There were tears in the dressing room after the game,” the defender said.Such was the desperation within the team that co-owner Sandeep Chattoo used to give his phone to the boys in case of emergency. Though positives are hard to find, the hotelier added that the team spirit within the camp has grown by leaps and bounds.
“We have such a diverse team. Everybody helps each other and that is great to see and it mimics the spirit of the entire state. The problem not only brought the players closer but I would like to believe that it helped us a lot because with the internet they would waste a lot of time, spending too much time with their girlfriends. I am actually happy that all their concentration and energy were channelised towards our main goal and make sure that they win the league,” he joked.
With the state yet to return to normalcy, there were concerns about the club hosting its matches at the TRC Turf Ground. But they have received assurances from the AIFF and the state government regarding hosting home matches.“We have unofficially been informed about our matches. We will be playing at home and 12th (December) is our first home game. And with regards to whether people will come out of their homes to cheer us, I can assure you that this year the problem will be accommodating people as there is huge demand back home.”
Scotsman David Robertson has now been at the helm for over two years and despite the ongoing struggle, the club has carved a special place in his heart. The former Leeds United defender’s love affair with the club is so intense that he brought his son over to play for the team.
“It has been a fairy-tale and we don’t want it to end any time soon. Pre-season planning always goes out the window and you have to assess the situation on a weekly basis. But in the long term, these are trivial matters as we have managed to bring hope to the region. That is something money can’t buy and hopefully this year, the I-League trophy will be the icing on the cake.”