After nearly five months, Srinagar’s Synthetic Turf stadium was abuzz with football activities as first I-League match of the season between Real Kashmir FC and Chennai City FC attracted a huge crowd.
In the nail-biting encounter, Real Kashmir defeated Chennai City by two goals to one. From the morning large number of football enthusiasts had gathered at the heavily guarded stadium to support their favourite teams and players. This was the first public event in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in early August, which followed by the long spells of curfew and communication blockade.
Real Kashmir FC is the first-ever I-League side of J&K and in the last few years has brought laurels to the erstwhile state. As the game commenced amid huge cheers from the crowd, the players braving winter bone-chilling chill went all out to attack each other’s goalposts.
However, Real Kashmir players, having a better knowledge of the local conditions, scored two back-to-back goals in the first half. By the time second half started, the visiting players were better prepared to deal with the cold conditions and they made several attacks on Real Kashmir goalpost. They were rewarded early in the second half when they netted one into the goalpost.
Seeing Chennai players attacking more, the Real Kashmir team concentrated more on defence than attacking opposite goalpost. When the referee blew the final whistle the Real Kashmir was still leading by a goal.
Real Kashmir coach, David Robertson said it was a long wait for his side to kick-start the season. The first two scheduled games for the team earlier were postponed due to inclement weather. “All the players were excited about the match and I am happy with the winning start,” he told reporters.
A visiting player while expressing happiness to play in front of huge crowd in Srinagar, said, “There were some apprehensions when we were told that we have to play in Srinagar. But after coming here, all of us are happy. The atmosphere in the stadium was electrifying and despite intense chill, we enjoyed every moment of play,” he said.
Despite winning the league last year, it was the third loss for Chennai team against Real Kashmir. The coach of the Chennai team Akbar Nawas said compared to last year, the weather was better this time. “Real Kashmir is always a difficult side to play against as they are defensively sound and disciplined,” he said.
Besides thousands of spectators, BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav was present to witness the match.