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Real Kashmir is an epitome of football in all

Football is not only a sport. It’s a passion, a religion, and most importantly it’s a way of expressing your feelings which has no boundary. It has the power of unity. It works on the strength of the individual but when they play as a team. We have many clubs in the world who welcome the players from all races and all religion to combine together and form a formidable side, but Real Kashmir from India’s state of Jammu & Kashmir is an epitome of football in all.

It’s not a very old club. It’s very new with a mere presence of only four years, but it’s their message to the world which has helped them grow together at such level. They have earned their promotion to India’s top division I-League after only two seasons. Now, not only in India, everyone around the world is talking about Real Kashmir and even United Kingdom’s daily Telegraph is writing an article about them.

The editor of the Kashmir Monitor, Shamim Meraj started that journey four years ago helping a flood affected community. He wanted the kids to erase the memory of negativity surrounding them and push for a more positive environment for them to grow. A football club automatically came to mind and today that amateur club has turned into India’s most inspiring story with a promotion to India’s top division football.

A state where Muslims killing Muslims in the name of separatists demanding for a free Kashmir, only God knows from whom; it’s an inspiring story for a Muslim and Hindu to take a plunge and go on a journey to give youth a platform and keep them away from the distractions of becoming stone pelters and then become a militant one day.

Shamim Meraj and Sandeep Chattoo (a Hindu Preist) were lucky to have a visitor in town in David Roberston when they took the plunge to start Real Kashmir club. Robertson is a legend in Scotland winning several titles with Rangers in his playing days. He falls in love with the valley at the very first instance and he saw kids playing football on the streets. He just wanted to give them a level playing field.

Robertson told Telegraph, “The first time I set foot in India was Kashmir. And when you see India on TV you don’t realize there’s parts of it like that. It reminds me a lot of Scotland – there’s mountains, it rains, there’s four proper seasons.”

He adds, “The area’s not that well known for its football, even though everyone plays it on the streets – and this hopefully can put us on the map. It’s not just about Real Kashmir but the whole state and it’s football potential.”

Real Kashmir is not only about professional growth. It’s about community development. They participate in all four divisions of the I-League. There are youth players in U-13, U-15, and U-18 teams. it allows the kids from the Kashmir valley to get an interest in sports.

Football is a medium to express yourself in the right direction. Real Kashmir is moving in the right direction giving valley kids a chance to mold themselves into the right environment.

Kashmir is a paradise on earth. We all have heard it and most of us have got the chance to appreciate the beauty with our own eyes. But some of the unsocial elements have been able to create the hatred in those beautiful souls living in the valley and that have cost many innocent lives. These secular problems haven’t helped either side but it still exists. We hope football can bring a change. It will give kids the right direction to mold their focus and will keep them away from the ugly and evil things happening in the valley.

Robertsons adds, “You get an idea of the different personalities of the parts of India from our team, and that’s great. The different faiths means we all go off and pray, sometimes together, but always we are a team. But the respect for each other’s belief and personalities is huge and meaningful.”

“We have got six or seven different faiths, four or five different nationalities and kids from across India Here – and you see then working together every day and having each other’s back, and it’s a nice picture.”

Real Kashmir started with school students and semi-professionals working in a bank to form a team, and next season they’ll play in I-League. It’s a tremendous achievement within 18-months of time and they really are an epitome of football in all.

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