As if the struggles during the political lockdown of Kashmir last year weren’t enough, Real Kashmir FC now has to deal with a pan-India lockdown and the halting of all flights due to the COVID-19 crisis. Its players and coaching staff from abroad are stuck at the CH2 hotel in Srinagar, owned by the club’s co-owner Sandeep Chattoo, ever since the league was brought to a halt last month; they don’t know when they will be able to go home. The list includes the club’s head coach, David Robertson, and his son Mason.

Chattoo has chosen to stay at the hotel to give them courage and confidence during these uncertain times. In a short interaction with  Sportstar , he talks about the current scenario and reflects on the the club’s curtailed I-League 2019-20 campaign.

Q.  The COVID-19 pandemic has paused the league, and brought everything to a halt. How are you coping with the situation, and the players?

A. There’s nothing much we can do, we’re all in a state of lockdown, we can’t do anything [but] just stay put where we are. It goes for the players also, although they’ve left Srinagar for their respective places before the lockdown started. But all the foreign players and coaches are in Srinagar right now.

How are those stuck at Srinagar coping and what are they up to?

[For] all the foreign players, things are very uncertain. Nothing is clear as to when they would be able to go back to their respective countries and homes, but right now we have six British nationals here – three coaches and we have David Robertson’s wife Kim also here, and two more – our goalkeeping coach and David’s assistant Jimmy here. Everybody’s trying their best to cope with the situation, everybody tries to keep themselves busy by doing something or the other. There’s not much you can do when you’re locked down in a place.


Sandeep Chattoo, co-owner of Real Kashmir, has chosen to stay at the hotel to give the players courage and confidence during these uncertain times.


The hotel I own in Srinagar, hotel CH-2, is also the headquarters of RKFC so the players are used to staying in the hotel and the hotel has an in-house gym and all kinds of facilities. [Those who] are left behind are the foreign players; they keep themselves busy on the internet, doing some group activity, training in the gym, and we all together try and make sure that everybody stays in a positive frame of mind. I myself decided to stay back along with them. I’m in Srinagar with all of them [as] I didn’t want to leave them alone. So that’s helping them a little bit; they feel more confident since I’m with them all the time.

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Are they engaging in some group activity or training indoors to be in a positive frame of mind?

To better utilise this present time, there’s not much the management or I can do. But whatever is humanly possible, that is being done to make sure that the stay of the coaches or the foreign players who are stuck here are as comfortable as possible and whatever can keep them busy, occupy their time, just making sure that we are able to organise it for them.

This was a promising season for Real Kashmir, and a second-place finish was a realistic possibility. What is your assessment of the performance of the team, given the odds due to the curfew and communication restrictions put in place by the central government before the league began?

To be very realistic, had the league gone on, we would have definitely finished second, and the worst case scenario would have been third. Given the odds, the hardships that we had to face, [we did really well]. Soon after playing the Durand Cup in August, when we came back, we didn’t have a ground where we could practice. Considering all the hardships and seeing where we stand today, with five games to spare, I’m very satisfied with the performance of the team.

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If you had to pick a standout player from the team this season, who would it be?

Considering how the players performed this year, I wouldn’t like to pick a standout player from the team this season but I would definitely want to compliment our goalkeeper Phurba [Tempa Lachenpa] who played exceptionally well, Mason [Robertson] who played very well though he was in the front and played as an attacker instead of his usual defensive position, and Chesterpoul [Lyngdoh] has been good.

A lot of different players did well in different games.