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Amid snowy cold, Kashmir warms up to football today

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Srinagar, Nov 5: Amid the beauty of Kashmir’s first snowfall of the season, there is a sense of excitement of another first.

The Valley will host a top-division game of the I-League – India’s premier domestic football tournament – for the first time when its newly-promoted home club, Real Kashmir FC, takes on Churchill Brothers in Srinagar on Tuesday.

 

Snowflakes might have kissed the football field of the TRC Turf Ground, waterlogging might have blocked major roads going to the stadium. Yet, these hurdles have done little to pull down the surging anticipation of the Kashmiris.

“I’ve got almost a 100 calls since morning, most of them about people enquiring with the hope that the match is not cancelled,” Sandeep Chattoo, co-owner of the team that was formed in 2016 in the aftermath of the devastating 2014 floods that ravaged Jammu & Kashmir, said.

As per Chattoo, some 10,000-12,000 people are expected to flock the TRC Turf Ground on Tuesday, especially with tickets being free and the fact that Real Kashmir tasted victory in their debut I-League match against holders Minerva Punjab in Chandigarh last week.

“Lots of youngsters, despite the messy weather and waterlogged roads leading to the stadium, are coming to the ground just to find out what is happening and to see their local heroes train.

“This match is something the people are looking forward to, a feeling which is otherwise lacking in Kashmir. We rarely look forward to anything here,” Chattoo said.

Not just fans, the players too can’t wait for the D-Day.

Staying in a hotel owned by Chattoo himself, the local footballers in the team including star striker Danish Farooq are kicked about representing Kashmir in India’s top league in front of their own.

“I have been with them all the time. Be it at breakfast, lunch or dinner, all they are talking is about playing in front of their home fans. You can see the excitement written all over their faces,” Chattoo, a businessman, said.

The basic facilities like dressing rooms and washrooms have just about been completed with rapid efforts over the last two months after the All India Football Federation’s ultimatum to get the ground meet the standards of hosting an I-League game.

“In Kashmir, nothing happens in two months. So, imagine how much everyone wanted to see this happen,” Chattoo said.

“All the departments have pulled in their resources. The divisional commissioner of Kashmir himself is coordinating with various departments to make sure that Tuesday’s match takes place smoothly,” he added.

The club co-owner is confident about that, not just because of the beefed up security but primarily due to the locals’ pure love for football.

“Nobody will want any untoward incident to happen, because they know one goof-up, and everything will be stopped. People know that there will be 10 matches played in Kashmir, so no one wants to lose out on even a single one,” he said. (Courtesy: dnaindia.com)