Kashmir’s Real Football

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For getting to the top, the RKFC will have to ensure it wins all the eight upcoming games, six of which will be played in Srinagar, reports Shakir Ashraf

Players of Real Kashmir Football Club and Neroca Football Club players in action during Hero I-League match, in Srinagar on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Barely two years after the inception, the Real Kashmir Football Club (RKFC) is looking confident to make its place on top of the I-League’s points table. It is the first ever Kashmir based club that participated in the competition and made it big in the first year.

The I-League is the professional league for Indian men’s football clubs that has emerged as the face of Indian football since 2007. This season, 11 teams wrestle each other to get the top slot. The winner eventually qualifies for the Asian football confederation (AFC) champion’s league.

Right now, RKFC stands at the fifth place in the ongoing championship. Of the 12 matches, they have won five matches, lost four games as three ended up in a draw. Now to clinch the top position, it is necessary for them to win all the upcoming eight games.

Historically, Football has remained a popular game in Kashmir. That is the key reason, why the football matches draws huge audiences to the stands. Real Kashmir played so far four matches at the newly renovated synthetic turf at Polo View. Despite the post-August 5 dominating the overall scene, all these games witnessed massive attendance of the game lovers.

On February 24, the first working day of the spring season, RKFC clashed with Indian Arrows FC. The match witnessed swelled presence of the crowd.  Fans were seeing holding the RKFC banners and cheering for every kick of the ball. Some crazy student fans in their school uniforms bunked the first day of school and cheered for the Kashmir team.

In 2016, RKFC started participating in local tournaments where they performed well. The local football lovers encouraged and appreciated the aspiring footballers. Soon, the club emerged as a professional team. For the betterment of club they then introduced professional foreign coaches.

Real Kashmir came into eyes of every one when they won the I-League 2nd division in its second year of existence. Then they earned promotion to the top flight. Given their successful trajectory, the state administration council (SAC), the literal cabinet of the Union Territory, assisted the club with a Rs 2 crore grant in 2108- 2019 season. Besides, it had certain endorsements from various sports related companies. Its operations from Kashmir and its connection with the well established Scottish layers earned it a n impressive profiling in the global media. A film about the team actually won honours in a word competition.

In last I-League, RKFC emerged as one of the leading teams. They finished at spot 3 of the points table. They were unstoppable and outstanding throughout the tournament. It played 19 matches, of which, they won 10 games, lost 3 and six ended in a draw.

Right now, RKFC’s playing 11 team has five foreign players, four from other different states and only two native players – Danish and Farhan. The foreign players are from European and African countries (Ivory Coast, Scotland, Nigeria, Zambia).

The confident team has a psychological edge now in the coming games as out of the eight remaining games, six are to be played on the home ground.

Knocked-Out In Cricket

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Six years after Jammu and Kashmir’s cricket team had again raised hopes as it reached the quarter finals of the Ranji Trophy. The dreams shattered again, however, as Karnataka gave it a humiliating defeat.

The team was outclassed in all departments by Karnataka Ranji team in the match. The first two days of the match were washed off by the rain. On the first day, low visibility allowed only half an hour play. On the second day the Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka teams endured more irritation as the heavy overnight rain left wet patches on the outfield. Only six overs were bowled.

Rain gods could have been the only help to the Jammu and Kashmir team. They may have qualified if the match had remained drawn due to inclement weather as the net run rate of the team was enough to make them qualify semis.

Jammu and Kashmir restricted Karnataka on 206 in its first inning, but their batting collapsed on the mere of 196. In the second inning Karnataka were successful by scoring 316 runs with the lead of first inning. But Jammu and Kashmir did not withstand before the bowling and were sent off the pitch at 163 runs.

Though the dismal performances of the team dismayed the passionate fans, but Jammu and Kashmir improved its profile. Credit goes to a better coach and the team leader. Parvaiz Rasool became the first player in Ranji trophy to score more than 300 runs and has taken more than 30 wickets in four consecutive seasons. He passed the record of Jalaj Saksena, a Kerala Ranji player who has done it for three years. Parvaiz has scored more than 300 runs and has taken 31 wickets in this season.

Team managers assert that the performance was better despite the fact that most of the summer was lost for the practice. They hope that the next season would be better for the team.

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