Bilal Khan: 'There is a sense of belonging among the fans'

Members of the Real Kashmir squad highlight the role of the club in the blossoming of football in the Valley.

The Real Kashmir squad trains in Bhubaneswar on Sunday ahead of its Super Cup contest. Photo: AIFF Media

Bravely crossing one hurdle after another, Real Kashmir FC has generated a buzz among the local populace in Kashmir. Football is blossoming here, point out members of the club.

The side finished third in its maiden I-League after having topped the Second Division. Its success has made football popular in the region.

Says Bilal Khan, the goalkeeper: “Before joining Real Kashmir I had no idea about football in Kashmir. But now it has changed. People love football and are supportive of us players. There is a sense of belonging among the fans.”

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Surchandra Singh, a forward, says, “I was quite surprised to see Real Kashmir being the Second Division champions. That had a huge impact on peoples’ mind. I never really thought people would be so crazy about football, and these changes in football have been possible due to immense support of our owner, and coach. They have been a strong pillar for the development of football in Kashmir. Now it’s all about going up and up.”

Helping budding players

Midfielder Danish Farooq, a midfielder, points out that the initiatives of his club have aided the development of football at the grassroot level. “The club has revived the history of football in Kashmir. They have supported young kids to join football at a very early age by starting the game at grassroots levels, and academies and help them to train under professional coaches. Through these initiatives, [Real Kashmir] is already helping budding players to achieve a higher level in football,” he says.

According to defender Dharmaraj Ravanan, local Kashmiris will be prominent football players in the future. “I have seen lots of talent in Kashmir players. I foresee many professional players from Kashmir playing for clubs and the national team in the future. The youngsters are showing interest in playing football. That’s most important,” says.

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