Updated: August 9, 2019 9:02:15 am
With players unable to contact their respective families for four days, Real Kashmir dispatched an official from Kolkata to Srinagar on Thursday to check on them and also deliver voice messages recorded by the players.
There are five players from Srinagar and one from Jammu in the team’s squad apart from the physio, kitman and general manager, who belong to the newly-formed union territory. The official will visit the house of each player on Friday and return to Kalyani on August 10 with messages for the players from their families.
Real Kashmir players landed in Kolkata on Sunday, a day before the government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of statehood. According to the team’s co-owners Shamim Mehraj and Sandeep Chatoo, the players have been trying to contact, in vain, their families since then.
“Eventually, a club official was sent to Srinagar today with personal messages recorded by the players. The official will deliver them to the respective families. When he returns on August 10, he will get messages in the form of audio recordings or photographs from the families if they wish to send any,” Mehraj told The Indian Express.
Chattoo added: “I have already sent someone all the way to Kashmir and right now somebody is going to every (local) player’s home and informing the parents about their children. I assured everybody in the team that all respective parents will be informed about their welfare.”
The audio messages from the families are likely to reach the players before their second match in the Durand Cup, against Army Green, on Saturday afternoon. The only top division side from the Valley defeated I-League champions Chennai City 1-0 in the opening match on Wednesday. According to club owner Chattoo, Danish Farooq, the scorer of the goal, had been trying to get in touch with his family from the time he reached Kolkata.
He added the players have been able to focus on the matches despite the unease back home because they are ‘used to’ such situations.
“Our local boy Danish scored the goal yesterday. He wasn’t being able to get in touch with his family for the last four days,” Chattoo told this paper. “The players (from Jammu and Kashmir) are not being able to communicate with anybody back home. But the idea is to play football, that’s the culture of our club. When we are allowed to play, we forget all this stuff. We have the resilience because we are used to something or other happening back home.”
It is understood that the Jammu and Kashmir government had granted Rs 2 crore in aid to the team for the upcoming I-League season. However, Monday’s decision has put that in limbo. Chattoo was optimistic that the decision will have no impact on football in the state and hoped it would bring in more investment.
“Regarding the Article 370, I can’t say anything as of now. I haven’t studied what implications it will have. But it’s not going to affect football at all. We (Real Kashmir) have a mission and we are totally committed and dedicated that through football, we will change the lives of the (Kashmiri) youths. We have given them something to look forward to. We have offered them an escape route through football. Our club is virtually worshipped in Kashmir,” Chattoo said.
At the same time, he spoke about a positive trickle-down effect. “If investment comes, more clubs will come up. We alone cannot make the entire Valley play football. We would love to have more professional football clubs. I’m assuring you in a couple of years, Kashmir will have sports tourism. People will come to watch games in Jammu and Kashmir. The authorities are rebuilding the Bakshi Stadium (in Srinagar). It will be ready in six-eight months and will be an international-class stadium.”
Real Kashmir played their home matches at the TRC Ground in Srinagar last season. Following the Pulwama terror attacks, though, they were forced to play one match towards the end of the season in Delhi. Recent developments cast a doubt on the possibility of conducting I-League matches there in the coming season. Chattoo said he might approach the AIFF with a request to defer Real Kashmir’s home matches in the I-League towards the back end of the year.
“There’s no harm in talking to the AIFF about this. We can defer our home games towards the (season’s) end. Things in Kashmir could be totally normal by then. We would love to go back home and play there. Everyone wants to win the I-League this season,” he said.
Their pre-season training, meanwhile, will now be held in either Mumbai or Jamshedpur. “I’m positive. Till the time the Durand Cup is over, we will wait and watch how the situation develops in Srinagar and will plan our pre-season accordingly. We can take the team to Mumbai, stay there for 15 days and have a pre-season. Or, we can take the team to Jamshedpur. But you have to have a good pre-season no matter what,” Chattoo said.
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