Real Kashmir FC, has the footballer in you heard about this football club from the northernmost state of India? They are certainly not part of Indian Super League while did they play in less fancy I-League? Before you 'Google' it, Real Kashmir FC is just three-years-old and yet to play in a top division league in India.
The Srinagar-based football club is the new entrant in Hero I-League and they will take on defending champions Minerva Punjab FC on October 31. Real Kashmir FC has been promoted to I-League after they won the second division and it will be the first club from Jammu and Kashmir to play the top-tier football league in India.
Real Kashmir FC describes themselves as "Small football club from Kashmir that dares to dream big!" However, they have already achieved many things which other football clubs in India still dreams.
Real Kashmir FC raised many eyebrows when they penned a deal with sportswear giant Adidas on Monday. Beginning with the 2018-19 season, Adidas will be the official kit partner for the club. If you think that's not something worthy to mention, no other football club in the country has a tie-up with the global brand Adidas at present.
Called 'The Snow Leopards' among fans, Real Kashmir has sent a clear message to rivals that they are pretty serious about the league by sending the youth team to Germany in August for pre-season training. The young brigade visited the facilities where one of the best football clubs in the world, Borussia Dortmund players horns their football skills. Can the 'Leopards of Heaven' turn black horses in the 2018-19 I-League season?
The humble beginning
Real Kashmir FC was formed in 2016 for recreation by two friends Sandeep Chattoo, a Kashmiri pundit and a local hotelier, and Shamim Meraj, a Kashmiri Muslim and editor of The Kashmir Monitor daily, reports The Week. The club took the first major step when they competed in their maiden national competition in September 2016 in the 2016 Durand Cup.
Promotion to 2018-19 I-League came after a thumping 2017-18 I-League 2nd Division campaign. Real Kashmir FC defeated Hindustan FC in the final game of the season by 3-2. The club uses Synthetic Turf or AstroTurf Stadium located at TRC, Srinagar, as the home ground.
Getting ready for the 2018-19 I-League campaign
Scottish coach David Robertson, who played as a left back for Aberdeen, Rangers, Leeds United, Montrose in 1990s, will continue as head coach. Former Minerva Punjab FC defender Loveday Enyinnaya will wear the captain armband.
The squad include local talents like Shahnawaz Bashir and top scorer for Real Kashmir in their promotion-winning season last year, Danish Farooq. The experienced foreign squad include six players that include midfielder Mason Robertson, son of their head coach.
After the first away match, Real Kashmir FC will play six straight games at home with Churchill Brothers being first up on November 6. The home game steak is expected to show the true potential of the team from the valley. Can they take away the 'Giant Killer' tag from Gokulam Kerala FC in the debut season?