M Aamir Khan
On Thursday, home team Real Kashmir Football Club (RKFC), nicknamed ‘Snow Leopards’, will take on defending I-League champions Chennai City Football Club (CCFC). It will be the first home game of the season for the RKFC and also the first I-League match to be played in the Valley after J&K was made UT and Article 370 scrapped. During last season’s I-League — the country’s largest football league — home matches of the RKFC drew huge crowds and rekindled Valley’s lost love for the game of football. Tomorrow’s tie will be crucial for the ‘Snow Leopards’ as both their games ended in a draw. Last season, the RKFC debuted as underdogs but managed to reach the third spot. Now, local fans expect them to do better.
RKFC coach David Robertson said it was good to be back finally as two home matches scheduled on December 12 and 15 against Gokulam Kerala FC and Churchill Brothers FC Goa, respectively, were postponed due to inclement weather. “It is good to be back after a long wait. We are disappointed we could not play the earlier home matches. Chennai City is the current league champs and a difficult team to play against, but we have beaten them before. We are looking forward to the game. There is much expectation from our team. We have more attacking options this season. There is more pressure — the pressure to win. Last year, there were no expectations at all,” Robertson told the media.
Akbar Nawaz, coach of Chennai City, said the pressure would be on the RKFC as they were yet to win a game this season. “It is always good to come here and play in this weather. We have to be at our best. Only three foreign players are in our team and 80 per cent of the team comprises local players,” he said.(Tribune News Service)