Real concerns for Real Kashmir ahead of I-League 2019-20

The club is bracing for not just an away start to the season but also possible hurdles in hosting its first home game, tentatively scheduled for next month.

File Photo: The atmosphere is said to be calm but there is a lot of frustration among the people.   -  Nissar Ahmad

The AIFF is yet to officially announce the fixtures for the 2019-20 I-League but Real Kashmir FC, the only professional football club from the region, is bracing for not just an away start to the season but also possible hurdles in hosting its first home game, tentatively scheduled for next month.

The clubs have been provided a provisional list of games, likely to be confirmed after a meeting between I-League club officials and AIFF on Thursday, with RKFC travelling to East Bengal on December 3 before hosting Gokulam Kerala on 12th, Churchill Brothers on 15th and defending champion Chennai City on the 26th.

“The divisional commissioner has written to us that the administration would take care of everything. That includes security for teams even though there is no such specific mention in the letter,” club sources said.

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The communication lockdown in the valley for more than three months now has meant things have to be planned in advance to avoid logistical issues. But sources admit it won’t be easy. “The good thing is that the government is on board. We have confirmation from Gokulam and Churchill so far, they have also made their bookings. But until Gokulam actually arrives in Srinagar on the 9th, we will keep our fingers crossed,” they admit.

Underlying tension

The situation on the ground, they say, is calm but the underlying tension is evident and there is a lot of frustration among the people. “Our mobile phones are simply an extension of our landlines with a different number. Even SMSs cannot be sent. People have nowhere to go. In such a scenario, hosting matches may not be easy,” they say.

What has added to the team’s concerns is the unpredictability of the situation. “When the government says there will be security, we believe it. But we cannot predict how it will unfold. How will it be managed? Will people be allowed to move freely for at least those 2-3 hours and reach the stadium? If it is so tight that people cannot come, then the whole purpose of playing at home will be lost.

“The freedom can be cathartic for youngsters to finally be out in the open, in a strong crowd of 15,000 and scream and cheer the side without any restrictions. It can as easily go the other way, though we are really hopeful it won’t. RKFC’s home games would be a chance to showcase that the people are not looking for a chance to cause trouble,” club sources declare while adding that playing outside Srinagar was not something that had been discussed so far.

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