The team from the Valley will finally get the chance to settle in familiar surroundings.
I-League outfit Real Kashmir are finally returning home to Srinagar, after being on the road since the past two months for the Durand Cup in Kolkata and their pre-season in various states and cities, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana, Kolkata, Jamshedpur, Goa and Kochi.
The team was displaced right when the Indian government scrapped the controversial Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir following which, communication restrictions and curfews ensued in the region. The local players in the squad were unable to contact their families back home, but they showed immense professionalism and remained focused towards their footballing commitments.
Speaking to the Times Of India, the co-owner of the club Sandeep Chattoo said, “All this time, we haven’t thought of anything else beyond football. We are practicing (for the I-League), and after two days, we are going back to Kashmir. We will train on our own ground till the start of the league.”
“The club belongs to Srinagar. We want our home games to be played there. They (the fans) are looking forward to seeing their club play and perform. Politics is different. We are just playing football. This time, because of the current situation, we don’t know how many spectators will be allowed inside the stadium for our home games, but I can tell you, the response will be the same,” he further added. Real Kashmir play their home games at the TRC Ground, which enjoyed a strong crowd of 15,000 passionate football fans coming together to cheer their team on.
Further positive comments from I-League CEO Sunando Dhar ensure that the Snow Leopards will play their home games out of Srinagar for the time being. He said, “At the moment, the plan is to have the matches in Srinagar. The experience last season was fantastic. We don’t have to take that away, if we get the support of the state machinery. We had a discussion with the club and association and will hold a meeting with the government soon.”
Despite being a tough time, the team has had a strong pre-season outing. Without displaying any signs of distraction, the team has performed amicably, giving a tough fight to Indian Super League outfits, as they beat Kerala Blasters (1-0) and played out stalemates with Mumbai City FC (0-0), Jamshedpur FC (3-3) , and FC Goa (1-1).
Real Kashmir will fly back home after their final clash against the new ISL outfit Hyderabad FC on Friday.