Jammu and Kashmir has been at the centre of the nation’s attention this year for several reasons. From major protests to prolonged curfew, the state has been under a lot of duress recently. So, it was a surprise when a newly-formed club from the Valley – Real Kashmir FC - took part in this year’s Durand Cup. The team could manage only three draws during the group stage, but the performance was enough to announce their arrival on the national football scene.
The team is currently in Pune, taking part in an invitational tournament organised by local club DSK Shivajians. The competition will be the ideal way for Real Kashmir FC to gear up for their maiden I-League 2nd Division season later this year.
Talking to HT over phone, team manager Salman Mir said, “We want to compete at the highest level in the country. Kashmir has a lot of talent and we hope to produce players who will go on to play the Indian Super League (ISL) clubs and the national team.”
A majority of the club’s practice sessions take place in Srinagar and according to Salman, Real Kashmir FC are looking to nourish talent from the grass-root level. The team is also looking to build its squad ahead of the I-League 2nd Division season, and have recruited two foreign footballers and a number of players from across the country.
Eyes on target
Talking about their plans, Salman said, “We know we are not ready to take on the big teams, but are working towards making a name for ourselves.”
Last season, Lonestar Kashmir FC created history by becoming the first professional football club from the state to participate in a national league competition and it was a boost for the other clubs in the state as Lonestar’s success worked wonders.
“Lonestar are a big name when it comes to football in Kashmir and their success has opened the gates for other clubs from the Valley. They have a support base in the state and when they played their home matches in the valley earlier this year, it was a full house at the Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar,” said Salman.
The two clubs may face each other for the first time this season, depending on the conditions and if it takes place in Srinagar, and it will be a historic match in J&K’s sporting history.
“It will be a first of its kind and I am sure it will be a treat for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The people are very passionate about the game and it will be a dream match for all of them”, he said.