A solid pre-season in Scotland was one of the main reasons behind Real Kashmir FC scripting history to become the first football team from the valley to qualify for next season’s I-League, their team manager Obaid Peer said.
The Srinagar based outfit outwitted Delhi’s Hindustan FC 3-2 in the second division league in Bengaluru on Wednesday to become the first team from the state of Jammu and Kashmir to make it into the top flight of Indian football since the National Football League started in 1996.
They were unbeaten throughout their second division campaign, winning six matches and drawing four.
“We were in Scotland before the league for our pre-season. The entire team went and we camped for 15 days,” Peer told news agency IANS over phone from New Delhi where the team is presently based.
They will fly back to Srinagar on Friday.
The two-year-old club is coached by former Scotland international and Glasgow Rangers legend David Robertson.
Peer said it was Robertson who arranged the trip for them as they used the Rangers’ facilities, a rare exposure for an Indian second tier club.
“The football infrastructure isn’t the best in the state. Our coach is a Rangers FC legend and we could camp there because of him. The camp was of great help as the players learnt so much,” he added.
Real Kashmir will now play in the I-League 2018-19 season starting September. Peer said the players are eager to rub shoulders with traditional heavyweights like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, who are also expected to turn up in Srinagar.
“We would now look to bolster our arsenal before the I-League season. We are looking at a few players. Let’s see. Overall, the boys are so excited to be part of I-League and are raring to go against the likes of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan,” he said.
The volatile security situation in Kashmir affected training at times and Peer hoped their qualification would spur the state government to upgrade the ground his club is using.
“Let’s hope for the best. You all know the situation in Kashmir. It hasn’t been smooth sailing always. We have defied odds to come here. We all hope our success would inspire the government to improve facilities back home,” he signed off.
The club does not have a ground of its own and the players train at the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) ground which is an open field without fencing.