Val­ley’s first brush with I-League: Fans want more

Financial Chronicle - - PLAN, POLICY -

Foot­ball lovers in Kash­mir had lots to cheer about on Tues­day when the val­ley hosted its first ever I-League game and hun­dreds of fans, in­clud­ing for­mer chief min­is­ter Omar Ab­dul­lah, turned up to root for the lo­cal team -- Real Kash­mir FC. As clouds made way for the sun af­ter four days of over­cast weather, the fans de­scended on the val­ley's lone foot­ball sta­dium – the Astro­turf TRC ground – here in the sum­mer cap­i­tal of the state.

Over­looked by snow­capped moun­tains and fiery Chi­nar trees, the TRC ground came to life as the match be­tween Real Kash­mir FC and Churchill Broth­ers SC which ended in a 0-0 draw. The op­por­tu­nity to watch top-level foot­ball play­ers along with the en­thu­si­asm to sup­port the home team drew peo­ple from the city and other dis­tricts of the val­ley to wit­ness the game.

Slowly, ev­ery seat in the sta­dium was filled and many fans were not able to find a spot for them­selves.

While the crowd wel­comed both the teams with a loud ap­plause, the sta­dium re­ver­ber­ated with slo­gans favour­ing the home team. Young and old alike cheered for them and en­joyed ev­ery bit of the game. The bois­ter­ous home crowd was be­hind its team on its ev­ery move but felt dis­ap­pointed when the team could not con­vert the chances into goals.

"This match is very ex­cit­ing for sev­eral rea­sons. First, it is the first time that a match of such a pres­ti­gious league is be­ing played here. Sec­ond, it is our own team which is play­ing," Shabir Ah­mad, a foot­ball en­thu­si­ast, said.

"Then, we are get­ting a chance to see qual­ity foot­ball with play­ers from across the coun­try and even abroad," he added. Ah­mad, how­ever, said he felt dis­ap­pointed that the team could not score.

They had good chances but could not con­vert them into goals. We felt a bit dis­ap­pointed, but over­all, they played re­ally well and we had a good game to watch," he said.

An­other spec­ta­tor, Man­soor Bhat said such matches would build in­ter­est in foot­ball and would go a long way in pop­u­lar­is­ing the game.

"The youth in Kash­mir is gen­er­ally fond of foot­ball, but games like this will at­tract more of them to the sport and I am sure many of them will now think about it se­ri­ously," Bhat said.

Real Kash­mir FC Striker Dan­ish Fa­rooq also ex­pressed hope that many youth would choose foot­ball as their fu­ture.

"More youth will as­so­ciate them­selves with the game now. I think and I am hope­ful that they will now see that there is fu­ture in foot­ball," he said at the post­match press con­fer­ence.

Fa­rooq said it was a proud mo­ment for the team to play at home.

"We were very ex­cited, but kept our fo­cus though we did not put up a good re­sult, we did well. It was a proud mo­ment for all of us and we will not dis­ap­point our fans the next time," he said af­ter be­ing de­clared man of the match.

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