Real Kashmir FC is Kashmir United

  • ASIF M D HAJRA
  • Publish Date: Nov 4 2018 9:33PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 4 2018 9:38PM
Real Kashmir FC is Kashmir UnitedKashmir Ink Photo

October 31, 2018. Jammu and Kashmir’s first ever professional football team Real Kashmir FC makes historic debut in I-League, the premier league football tournament of India. The team stunned defending champions Minerva Punjab FC by a solitary goal, inviting comparison with Senegal, who during FIFA World Cup 2002 had shocked the then defending champions France by the same margin.Still in the budding phase, this 2-year old football club based in the valley of Kashmir is all set to make this I-League a memorable season as they face India’s football giants like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, etc. during the top flight league tournament.

While football in its crude form is played in every nook and corner of the valley, albeit highly concentrated in and around Srinagar city, the rise of an I-League team from the valley within a span of two years has been magical. The valley of Kashmir which carries a rich legacy of nurturing some of the best individual footballers in the past, having produced the captain of India’s 1984 national football team in Abdul Majeed Kakroo, also boasts of contributing a few more international footballers like Mehraj Ud Din Wadoo, Ishfaq Ahmad to the national talent pool. History is witness to the magical run of Kakroo, solid defence as iron wall of Wadoo and cut-in prowess of Ishfaq who all have played for some top clubs of India as well as the national team at different points of time. 

However, read history of Indian football and it goes without saying that the state has failed to build a football club of national repute in the past decades. Local football clubs like J&K Bank FC which is considered to be the powerhouse of J&K football, has never made it to the top-flight football in the country. In the recently concluded J&K Invitational Cup 2018, otherwise invincible J&K Bank FC fell convincingly to Minerva Punjab FC 3-1 in the opening match in a one-sided match, depicting the standard of football teams in the valley. 

While North-Eastern states of Mizoram, Manipur etc. which jumped into the football arena much later than J&K, have become football factories of the country with clubs like Shillong Lajong, Aizawl FC etc. already enjoying national repute, J&K football clubs till recently did not figure anywhere in the country. The ascent of Real Kashmir FC from a minnow to a national brand, which international brands like Adidas take pride in to associate with, is simply phenomenal!           

Caught in the vicious circle of violence for decades now which has left thousands dead, the valley has also witnessed deterioration in infrastructure across all sectors - be it education, communication or sports. And floods of 2014 - spoiled the corpse further. 

While all other states of India are on course of development, the valley looks like ‘gunshot jeans’ - ripped across its length and breadth, yet in fashion for brand ‘Kashmir’.   

Besides leaving the valley downtrodden economically, the ongoing turmoil has distorted the whole social fabric, fuelling animosity among various ethnic groups of the valley. Pandits and muslims sharing common ancestry who lived together for centuries, are left miles apart both in terms of location as well as their general understanding about each other.         

In the atmosphere where people struggle for existence day in and day out, a couple of friends established Real Kashmir FC in April 2016. Cutting across all social barriers, the duo worked in sync for two years to create history – nurturing Real Kashmir FC to reach the premier league of the country. Having won 2018 edition of I-League (2nd Division) in the 2nd year of its foundation, Real Kashmir FC have qualified for I-League season 18/19, setting dates to grapple with elite football clubs of the country like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers etc.

With I-League 18/19 having kick-started already on October 26 with Real Kashmir making the debut in style against the defending champions, all eyes are set on Real Kashmir FC’s first home match against Churchill Brothers on November 6. 

Although the football fanatics of the valley have already cherished some charismatic football during the recently concluded J&K Invitational Cup-2018, where RKFC emerged as the joint winners along with Minerva Punjab FC, watching I-League live on TRC ground starting November 6 will be a different experience all together.     

The spectators - of a wide variety - have already set high expectations from the team. Ranging from an autowala who gets some time to relax after toiling for the day full of uncertainty to a top-level bank officer, from a vegetable vendor to a KAS officer, from a handicraft artisan to a handicrafts seller, a pandit boy with roots in the valley who has come all the way from Mumbai to play for another local club to a sikh lad who hails from Poonch district, the audience are all set to unite and pray for the new face of Kashmir football - Real Kashmir FC for the team’s first home game at TRC Astroturf ground.   

Irrespective of results of the remaining matches Real Kashmir FC plays during I-League 18/19, the club has already refurbished the social fabric the valley. It has brought all segments of the society together, united them to go and cheer for their own ‘Real Kashmir FC’.

Real Kashmir FC is Kashmir United.