Real Kashmir’s dream run: Coach Robertson explains how it happened
Srinagar, Oct 27: Real Kashmir’s is a story that will always reverb in the memories of the Kashmiri people in the years to come.
The Srinagar-based football club will be making their top division debut in the 2018-19 campaign and is all set to become the first team from the state to feature in the professional top flight in India.
While the players are the ones who did the job on the pitch, the man who found the formula for success was coach, David Robertson, who has previously coached sides in his native Scotland and the United States.
“It’s been great obviously, coming from Scotland and the US and then moving to India and Kashmir. It was a culture shock at the start, but once you get to know people in the area, it’s all very well,” recounts Robertson.
Robertson believes there is no dearth of talent in the youngsters of the valley and wishes to inspire young kids.
“There have been just two players from Kashmir who have gone on to play at the high level in India, and that’s something we want to change. I can say for sure there is a lot of talent here and it struck me since I first came here.
The last-second division match against Hindustan FC – we won it with six Kashmiris in the team,” he remembers.
He is hopeful about the telecast of the I-league matches.
“The team has generated a lot of interest here, so hopefully, we’ll get noticed. The state’s been forgotten about for a number of years, and hopefully we can change that.” Robersaton says.
After a fairy-tale season in the second division last time around, the pliable coach wants to put as many efforts in the team that is heading for its first season in the I-League.
He says, “It has been quite an incredible last few months for us at the club. We have no expectations laid down as such and just want to take one game at a time. We’d like to compete well in our games, make sure we go in there and hold our own and after 2-3 games, we’ll see how the team does and get an idea of where we can finish towards the end of the season.”
“I have been a great believer in the fact that one should take one game at a time, particularly since it’s our first time playing at the top level. I have seen and studied the level of the I-League and Indian football in the last two years, and we hope that we are organised and play to our level best.”
Asked about the recent trip to Germany and the team’s response, the coach replies, “Germany and Dortmund are big names in football, obviously. A year ago, we took the boys to Scotland as we wanted to expose them to new experiences in terms of football as well as life. The trip to Germany was great and the next summer we will probably do something like this again.”
He is all praises for the team and looks forward to a new season. “Pre-season matches in Mumbai were great as well. We played five games and like everybody else, we’re building up to the first game of the season. There are still a few bits and pieces to add but the fitness levels of my players are great. We can’t wait for the season to start!”
The coach has currently three names on mind that are expected to stand out by the end of the season.
“Farhan Ganie, Danish Farooq and Muhammad Hammad. There are other ones as well but these three played with us last year and I hope they continue to do well and contribute to the team’s cause,” he reveals.
While the player and fans continue to celebrate, Roberston believes that this a work in progress and the club will face bigger challenges ahead. He says, “There’s a lot of excitement! In some of the second division games, especially against Lonestar Kashmir, there was a great atmosphere at the ground. We’re hoping for more of the same when the established Indian clubs come in.”
He adds, “Our stadium’s quite tight and can get loud. At the moment, it is getting done up and upgraded, which will be good for the fans. I’m sure teams will find it difficult to come here and play against us.”
“They’ve all waited for a long, long time for this moment and it’s finally happened after a fairy-tale story. I request them to come out in numbers and enjoy the experience, cheer us on and help us get through. It’s our first season! Hopefully, the fans are also as excited as we are.”