The club has revived the history of football in Kashmir- Danish Farooq
Written by: AIFF-The All India Football Federation
Kicking off as debutants in the top-tier this season, the Snow Leopards turned out to be potential title challengers.
Never before has Kashmir been known to be a powerhouse of football in India. But the 2018-19 Hero I-League season has turned that perception on its head.
Real Kashmir FC, who were but mere newcomers to the top flight went on to challenge all such perceptions, as they became the unlikely entrants of a title race, where they eventually finished third on the table. This change in perception for the land of unimaginable beauty holds true when it comes to the ‘beautiful game’ too.
“Before joining Real Kashmir I had no idea about football in Kashmir,” said Bilal Khan, who was named Best Goalkeeper of the Season in the Hero I-League. “But now it has changed. People love Football and are supportive of us players. There is a sense of belonging among the fans.”
“I was quite surprised to see Real Kashmir FC being the Hero Second Division champions. That had a huge impact on peoples’ mind,” said attacker Surchandra Singh. “I never really thought people would be so crazy about football, and these changes in football have been possible due to immense support of our owner, and coach.
“They have been a strong pillar for the development of football in Kashmir. Now it’s all about going up and up,” he further stated.
The love and adoration that these players are getting come as no surprise, however. The club itself has given a lot back to the community, as has opened the eyes of the local people to the sport.
From Baby Leagues to the senior level, the game has started to progress leaps and bounds in the valley.
“The club has revived the history of football in Kashmir. They have supported young kids to join football at a very early age by starting the game at grassroots levels, and academies and help them to train under professional coaches,” said local fan-favourite Danish Farooq. “Through these initiatives, RKFC is already helping budding players to achieve a higher level in football.”
“Football has always been the most popular sport in Kashmir. It is only because of Real Kashmir FC that the people of our state are once again coming to watch the matches and supporting us tremendously. The support of the people is necessary for the growth of football. I think we are getting that,” he said.
There is, of course, no dearth of talent in the Himalayan state. With the interest in football being sky-high, the game could very well change a lot of lives in the state.
“I have seen lots of talent in Kashmir players. I foresee many professional players from Kashmir playing for clubs and the National Team in the future,” said defender Dharmaraj Ravanan. “The youngsters are showing interest in playing football. That’s most important.”
Published: Sun Mar 31, 2019 07:41 PM IST