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Want to play for Real Kashmir at home and retire: Ishfaq

CHENNAI: Wednesday turned out to be a red-letter day for Kashmir football as Real Kashmir became the first club from Kashmir to qualify for the I-League next season.

Real Kashmir needed only a draw to book their place in the I-League while their opponents Hindustan had to win the match to triumph in second-division I-League. But Real Kashmir, who remained unbeaten in the entire tournament, showed their grit and hunger to defeat Hindustan 3-2 at the FSV Arena in Bengaluru to finish their final round campaign with seven points from three matches, three more than Hindustan.

While Kashmir has produced quality players like Ishfaq Ahmed and Mehrajuddin Waddoo who have gone on to play for their national side, it is the first time that a club from the state has made it to the premier football competition in the country. Ishfaq, who is the assistant coach of ISL side Jamshedpur FC, said he wants to end his career as a footballer with Real Kashmir.

“I am so excited that I feel like playing for them when they take the field. Due to my Jamshedpur commitments, I might not be able to do that. But then I really want to play my last match for them at my home and retire. It is my club as well as I have been associated from the beginning and helped them in scouting the players,” Ishfaq said.

The former India player said that Real Kashmir would be a great advertisement for football in Kashmir, which is always embroiled in conflicts and controversies. “Kashmir has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Now, this is a great advertisement for the state. This will bring about a positive change. Football has always been a popular sport in the state and this will encourage youth to come and take up the sport,” said Ishfaq.