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After IFA Shield win, new-look Real Kashmir hope for I-League glory

Real Kashmir FC’s Scottish coach David Robertson felt like he had been “hit by a bus” when he checked into his lodge room in Kolkata after flying into India from the UK.

“I got a Covid test done before leaving the UK, I got a test when I landed in India. There was so much paperwork to do. It’s just surreal, really. I took a day-and-a-half to get here, and honestly my body was in bits,” Robertson mentioned throughout a digital media interplay on Tuesday. “But that’s the desire to come back and try to put on a good show and hopefully at the end of the season – whenever that is – it’s all worth it.”

The begin has been alright, with Real Kashmir successful the IFA Shield final Saturday forward of the I-League season starting from January 9 subsequent 12 months in a bio bubble in Kolkata. With no soccer because the earlier I-League version was suspended in March, a comparatively new-look squad of recent recruits and gamers assembling at totally different factors of time, Real Kashmir went straight into competitors mode for the December 6-19 event. That, with merely a few days of coaching as a full squad earlier than their opening match on December 6.

“We trained together just 2-3 days before our first game, we’ve got almost a new squad, a lot of us haven’t played for 7-8 months, there was virtually no training and we went straight into games,” Robertson mentioned. “I just think there must be something magical in that yellow jersey and badge. You’d think the players haven’t trained or played a lot together, but this just shows the desire of the players, the club, and everything about the place. Playing for Real Kashmir, at times, is not easy but every hurdle that’s thrown in front of us we somehow manage to get over it.”

The IFA Shield is laced with historical past and status however for the previous couple of years it was solely performed as a youth occasion. Back with its senior standing this 12 months, the event was fought between 4 I-League (Mohammedan Sporting, Gokulam Kerala and Indian Arrows performed apart from Real Kashmir) and eight Calcutta Premier League groups. Real Kashmir had 5 unbeaten matches, together with a 2-1 win in opposition to George Telegraph within the last. The competitors won’t have been near what the crew will count on to face subsequent month within the I-League, nevertheless it gave the younger membership its first silverware since its formation 4 years in the past. Enough motivation to goal for higher end result on this I-League than their third and fourth place finishes within the earlier seasons.

“It was a great ending to win the competition. What is does do is show that we are a good side this year, and it gives us a lot of confidence going into the first I-League game. We’ve only been together for two-and-a-half weeks. We’ve trained as much as we can, put in double sessions. The IFA Shield success flew past quickly, and it has given players so much desire that they’re playing with a smile on their face,” the 52-year-old former Scottish footballer turned coach mentioned.

Relegated to second division within the nation’s soccer construction, the I-League has misplaced quite a lot of its sheen with distinguished golf equipment East Bengal and Mohun Bagan switching to the top-tier Indian Super League (ISL). Real Kashmir are additionally wanting to work their approach up in direction of the ISL, with I-League winners set to get direct entry into the ISL in 2022 and 2023.

“Our expectations get higher each year,” Danish Farooq, the membership’s star midfielder and native face from Srinagar, mentioned. “I want this club to go much higher, whether I’m here or not. I want this club to play in the ISL one day; that’s my dream as well. I think this club deserves to play in the ISL. And hopefully we’ll get it done together.”

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