'It's amazing how football has brought people together.'
Real Kashmir FC's rise as a top side in the I-League has been "nothing short of a fairytale", feels its Scottish coach David Robertson, who is happy to have refused more lucrative assignments in other countries considering the "pure passion" for the beautiful game in Kashmir Valley.
Robertson took up the reigns of Real Kashmir four years ago and guided the club to I-League promotion in 2018-19. The 'Snow Leopards', who finished third and fourth respectively in the two previous seasons, are currently in the top half of the ongoing I-League season.
"I've had a few other offers over the years, but I just feel that I owe it to the people of Kashmir and everyone associated with the club, to come back and continue the work," Robertson was qouted as saying by 'i-league.org'.
"I'm not doing this for the financial gains nor am I using this as a stepping stone. I want to make an impact. Every time I go back home, I look forward to coming back here. I'm glad I did this."
The 52-year-old has played for famous clubs like Rangers and donned Scotland colours in three matches. He also has coached clubs in Scotland and the USA but he finds the atmosphere in Kashmir "unique".
"In places like the USA, it's more of a case of putting on the jersey and pretending that you support the team. Here in Kashmir, it's pure passion," said Robertson
"To see the club grow from obscurity to being even known in places like the UK or Scotland is a different experience. It has been nothing short of a fairytale.
"I realise that it will probably end someday as all football jobs do, but I believe that it has made me a better person. You get a perspective on what's important in life. Just looking at the backgrounds of some of the players is a humbling experience."
Robertson, whose son Mason also plays for Real Kashmir, revealed that his wife was "disgusted" when he decided to take up the job in January 2017.
"My wife was initially disgusted at my decision when I decided to leave my comfortable lifestyle behind and hop on a plane to Kashmir. But I think looking back now, everyone realises how big a part of my life this has become to my family and me," said the coach.
He recalled the initial months of his job as Real Kashmir coach and said the club has united people.
"When I first came to Kashmir, Lonestar Kashmir were the more popular club and we would attract only around maybe 200 spectators to our games in the Second Division. The spectators were mostly men and it was more of going out in the afternoon to watch a bit of football," Robertson said.
"But things really started to grow once we made it to I-League. I remember when I had first taken over back in the Second Division, we barely had any infrastructure.
"Nowadays you can see people from so many walks of life thronging into the stadium, not only men and women but also grandparents and grandchildren. It's amazing how football has brought people together."