The Real Kashmir FC has finally made its place on Indian football map as on Wednesday, the Kashmiri club defeated Hindustan FC of Delhi with a score of 3-2 at the FSV arena in Bengaluru. With this victory, Real Kashmir FC has created history by becoming the first team from Jammu and Kashmir to qualify for the I-League.
Four years earlier, Real Kashmir Football Club was started by a local newspaper owner named Shamim Meraj in Srinagar. The football club was formed with a hope to heal the society from the aftermath of 2014 floods in the city, with no money, no players and no training facilities. Four years since its inception, a team made up of college students and semi-professionals who work at a bank, representing Real Kashmir FC arrived at FSV Arena in Bengaluru on Wednesday. And to everyone’s surprise, the team with one of the smallest budgets in Indian football, beat Hindustan FC of Delhi 3-2 to win qualification into the highest rung of league football in India.
Can you imagine an Indian Super League club or even an I-League club for that matter, to be haggling with local fruit vendor for bananas? The owner of the team Shamim Meraj said, “We’d literally beg, borrow and steal to keep the club afloat”. Meraj believes that for a football club of their size and budget, even qualifying for the League was “a miracle, a fairytale”. And the miracle that happened at FSV Arena seemed to be favouring Real Kashmir, with gusty winds blowing across the open stadium and heavy rains – it was very much like back in home for the club, and not for the Delhi club.
The victory that the young men from the Valley carved will be inscribed in history because, after 22 years of professional football in India, a club from Kashmir finally made it to the top. With a berth booked in I-League Championship, Real Kashmir just confirmed their place in the topmost tier of Indian football. When the final whistle was blown on Wednesday, Real Kashmir team collapsed on the field and shrieked with relief and exhilaration – because they have come long way to ponder over the medals they won on Wednesday. For Real Kashmir, it is all gold now, there is no fear of obscurity while approaching sponsors anymore, for they became the first team from the valley to qualify for the I-League.