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Real Kashmir’s fairy tale: The story continues

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Chandigarh: As The Real Kashmir FC team made their way to the team hotel in Zirakpur after a training session at the Minerva Punjab FC training ground in Mohali on Monday evening, head coach 50-year-old David Robertson was the last one to get off the team bus. The former footballer, who played for clubs like Aberdeen, Rangers, Leeds and Montrose apart from the Scotland football team, has been with the team since January 2017. With Real Kashmir getting ready for their I-League debut against defending champions Minerva Punjab on Wednesday making them the first club from Jammu and Kashmir to play in the I-League, the coach remembered the only problem he has faced during his tenure, a thing which also makes the team a formidable outfit. “The biggest problem I faced initially was time-keeping. Since a lot of Kashmiri youngsters in the team were not playing professionally and doing other jobs or studies, it was hard to manage. In Srinagar, we only have the TRC Stadium to train and more than 22 teams train there. So, we got different time slots for training. Also there was less exposure as the local players only played against each other. When we won the I-League Second Division earlier this year, there were six Kashmiri players in the team. Kashmiri footballers have proved that if you give them opportunities, they can achieve anything they want. They are mentally very strong and sometimes some of the players attend two practice sessions in the morning, playing for their employer at 7 am and then train for Real Kashmir at 9 am. They have the desire and the unstoppable energy and that’s what have taken them so far,” shared Robertson, whose son Mason Robertson also features in the Real Kashmir team. Founded by Shamim Meraj and Sandip Chattoo in Srinagar in March 2016, Real Kashmir competed in the prestigious Durand Cup the same year before taking part in the I-League Second Division that year, where they were knocked out in the first round. With only five foreign players in their ranks, the club competed in the I-League Second Division 2017-18 and emerged winners, edging out Hindustan FC in the final round. Lone Star FC, the other club from J&K, had also competed in the I-League Second Division. 22-year-old Danish Farooq was one of the highest scorers for the team and the youngster calls this a historic moment. “When I started playing with the club in 2016, there were 20-25 players training for the club. We played in Durand Cup and DSK Cup before playing the qualification rounds for the I-League Second Division. Winning the I-League Second Division was a special moment for all of us. The interest of youth in football dwindled before that but the win meant that more youngsters are interested in playing football. Hamari koshish hai ki zyada se zyada youth football khelen aur apne drams achieve karen. There cannot be a stage bigger than this for the Kashmiri youth to show their talent. I have seen players like Sunil Chettri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu playing for clubs like Bengaluru FC and the national team. Hum bhi chahte hain ki hum Indian national team ke liye khelen. My father Farooq Ahmed Butt played for Mohammedan Sporting Club but he never got a chance to play at home. When we play our home matches in Srinagar, my whole family will come watch and it will be the biggest gift for my father,” shared Farooq. The team will also play their home matches in Srinagar with their first match against Churchill Brothers on November 6 and the players are also excited about playing in front of the home crowd. “I started playing cricket as a kid at Batamaloo as my father played cricket. Three years ago, I switched to football and later played for Lone Star FC. I joined Real Kashmir FC last year and I never thought in a dream about playing in I-League. Competing at this level will also help the youth understand that they too can aspire to play the game at the professional level. I am a fan of Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Ishfaq Ahmed who played for India apart from Indian captain and defender Sandesh Jhingan. He is the most fearless defender I have watched and to play in a city where he belongs is a special feeling for a player like me,” said 21-year-old defender Muhammad Hammad. The 30-member current Real Kashmir squad has 15 players from J&K apart from six foreigners and nine from other states. Pic David Real Kashmir’s dream run: Coach Robertson explains how it happened Hirra Azmat Srinagar: 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.” ( Courtsey Indian Express)


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Chahal registers best ODI bowling figures by a spinner Down Under

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Mumbai :Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal on Friday recorded the best bowling figures by a spinner in an ODI clash in Australia, during the series-decider against the Aussies in Melbourne.

Chahal picked six wickets while conceding just 42 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), registering a dominant performance against the hosts, in a crucial clash. He also became the first spinner to pick six wickets in an ODI in Australia.

The bowler’s excellent performance certainly played a key role in India restricting Australia to a total of just 230.

 

The 28-year-old cricketer further equalled the best-ever ODI figures registered by any bowler in an ODI clash in Australia, alongside former Indian fast-bowler Ajit Agarkar.

Agarkar had accumulated the same tally as recorded by Chahal, against the hosts at the same venue, back in 2004.

Australian paceman Mitchell Starc enjoys a bowling tally, which trails the figures registered by the duo by a single run, having picked six wickets for 43 runs against India at the MCG, back in 2015.

English fast-bowler Chris Woakes is the fourth name on the list, after accumulating figures of 6/45 against Australia in Brisbane, 2011.

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Phogat becomes first Indian nominated for Laureus Awards

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Mumbai: Ace Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat has become the first Indian to receive a nomination in the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards to be held in Monica on 18 February.

The 24-year-old Indian, who made a sensational comeback after battling a long injury lay-off to win a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games in 2018, has been nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year.

The Haryana wrestler, who was stretchered off after dislocating her knee during the quarterfinals of 50kg freestyle event at the 2016 Olympic Games, has been nominated alongside US Tour Championship winner Tiger Woods, who won his first tournament in five years.

 

Also nominated are four inspirational Winter Olympic athletes; Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, US ski racing legend Lindsey Vonn and Dutch Paralympic champion Bibian Mentel-Spee.

The last time an Indian sporting feat made its way to the Laureus World Sports Awards was in 2004 when the Indian cricket team and Pakistan cricket team shared the Laureus Sport for Good Award for playing an International match despite political tensions between the two countries.

Most recently, Magic Bus from India won the Laureus Sport for Good award in 2014. However, Vinesh makes history as the first Indian athlete to be nominated in one of the seven main categories at the Laureus World Sports Awards.

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All foreign stars will play PSL ties in Pakistan, says Mani

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LAHORE: All star cricketers will come to Pakistan to play in the eight matches of the fourth Pakistan Super League (PSL) scheduled for Karachi and Lahore, chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ehsan Mani said.

The PSL matches will be staged from Feb 14 to March 17 at three venues — Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi — in the United Arab Emirates before the remaining fixtures move to Pakistan with Karachi staging five games, including the final, and Lahore three.

Talking to media on sidelines of a friendly cricket match between the Sports Journalists Association of Lahore (SJAL) and the UK-based Pakistani journalists at the Gaddafi Stadium, Mani said a good number of star cricketers had signed up in the six PSL franchises.

 

However, because of security concerns, prominent overseas players have been reluctant to travel to Pakistan. But with the passage of time, the number of prominent cricketers willing to visit Pakistan has risen. In the recent development the ex-South Africa captain A.B. de Villiers has already pledged to play two matches of Lahore Qalandars in Lahore on March 9 and 10.

To a query, Mani said the talks with Cricket Australia are still on to convince them to send their national side to Pakistan for two games of the five-match One-day International series in the UAE in March despite reports of Australia’s expressing their reluctance regarding playing here.

The PCB chief declared that he has persuaded CA to send a security delegation to assess the current situation in Pakistan before taking a final decision, which is expected to be taken before the PSL begins in the second week of February.

Mani further said that talks were on with the cricket boards of South Africa and England to send different age-group teams to Pakistan.

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