IFA Shield win fuels Real Kashmir FC’s I-League title aspirations

Real Kashmir FC are looking to follow their IFA Shield triumph with an I-League trophy in 2021.

By Utathya Nag ·

Real Kashmir FC's Scottish head coach David Robertson believes his team's IFA Shield victory earlier this year can act as the perfect stimulus to press for an I-League title in 2021.

The first club from the tumultuous Kashmir valley to play in the top tier of Indian football, the Snow Leopards' rise to prominence was already one of the most inspiring stories in Indian sports. The team recently marked its first major domestic success by winning the prestigious IFA Shield.

The yellow brigade's next challenge will be the I-League, which gets underway in Kolkata from January 9, 2021. 

“It’s been great to end the IFA Shield by winning the competition. There is certainly something magical in that yellow jersey and badge, and the performances show that we are a good side again this year," coach Robertson said during a media interaction. 

“We have assembled a good squad capable of mounting a challenge for the I-League trophy. We’ve been here for two years and know what it is all about. Each year, we are more and more focused and fancy our chances this time around,” he added. 

Ever since gaining promotion after winning the I-League division 2 in 2017-18, Real Kashmir have proved to be one of the standout performers in the I-League fold, finishing second in the 2018-19 edition and fourth in the 2019-20 season. 

In I-League 2019-20, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Real Kashmir had one point less than second and third placed East Bengal and Minerva Punjab FC despite playing a match less. 

“The atmosphere at the club is the best we have had till now. We would want to be challenging for first place and it will depend on getting a good start. 

“This year, we have added more experienced players and we have guys in our team who can score goals as well. I always feel that defending is the most important part of the game and you’re halfway there if you defend well. We scored many goals in the IFA Shield run as well and it has been pleasing to see,” the Scot stated. 

Needless to say, Real Kashmir's title dreams will only be buoyed by the absence of Kolkata giants - East Bengal and Mohun Bagan - who have moved to the Indian Super League (ISL) competition from this season.

Real Kashmir FC start their I-League campaign against Manipur's TRAU FC at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on January 10, 2020. The entire tournament will be played in a bio-bubble as precaution against COVID.

_Lead photo: Real Kashmir/Twitter