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Real Kashmir! Football takes the valley by storm

Last updated on: January 29, 2019 08:58 IST

#TheRealKashmir celebrates the beauty of Kashmir through the lens of football, highlighting the wave of positive change brought about by the beautiful game in the state.

Real Kashmir, the team from Jammu and Kashmir, is a major hit in its debut season in the I-League.

The David Robertson-coached team is currently second in the standings with 28 points from 14 games following their 1-0 win against Chennai City FC as they extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches, leaving behind giants of Indian football like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan behind.

Real Kashmir, who won the Second Division league last season, is the first club from Jammu and Kashmir to qualify for the top-tier I-League.

In partnership with sportswear giant adidas, the team showcased the state with a unique photo exhibition in Bengaluru last week, titled #TheRealKashmir.

The exhibition celebrated the beauty of Kashmir through the lens of football, highlighting the wave of positive change brought about by the beautiful game in the state.

The pictures, shot by award-winning photographer Prashant Godbole, not only capture the picturesque Kashmir valley, but also portray how young kids in the state are taking to football, following their passion for the game.

From youngsters honing their football skills on the streets of downtown Srinagar to the youth academy prospects of Real Kashmir FC taking a leap of faith with the game on the snow-capped peaks of Gulmarg -- the pictures reinforce the wave of positivty that football has brought to Jammu and Kashmir.

"We took this journey of change when we started RKFC in 2016. My friend and business partner Shamim Mehraj and myself spotted the thirst amongst youngsters to play football and make a difference. Along with adidas, through such initiatives like this photo exhibition, we hope to spread the wave of positive change and optimism in the valley," says Real Kashmir FC Co-Owner Sandeep Chattoo.

Check out these stunning pictures kind courtesy Real Kashmir FC and adidas:


Not every civil dialogue needs a round-table and an agenda. Sometimes a football can break through. Jumping the giant divide that has deepened over decades and leaving a trail of hope behind it.


On a usual morning in Srinagar, it's hard to miss the little groups of footballers breaking the monotonous routines with their cacophony. Breaking a new path with a new found craze for football.


Inspired by a hopeful future and a belief that sport has the power to change lives, there's nothing archaic about the new generations of J&K.


The world may have given up on J&K before Kashmiris themselves. But when you see the rural boys dreaming big, you are looking at a silver lining. It will only be a lost cause if you fail to see the signs of change and the brighter future that awaits an entire generation.


Jammu & Kashmir is taking a huge leap of faith with football, crossing the divide between what's fringe and what's mainstream for the front pages.


When passion takes over, people tend to think emotionally and this time in J&K, this fanaticism has a passive twist. Supporting a local team that is making waves in the I-League.


With passion and positivity empowering a new generation, Kashmir is on-the-edge of breaking through with a new wave of creators.


If you ever find yourself in J&K, you will only find hatred for hate. All you will see is a simple life, focusing on community, belonging, sharing, innocence and respecting individuality. Individuality reflected in the new rise of grassroots football.


If you open your mind, you will find a little more to J&K. You will find the meadows alive with hope and passion for something that has the power to change lives.


Hidden within the mountains and ridges of the Himalayas, lies a big secret. Football.

Spreading like wildfire, the beautiful game is a positive distraction for the Kashmiri youth. Inspiring them to rewrite the future of J&K for posterity.


There's nothing certain about these determined, innocent smiles. Young Kashmiris are certain that the game of football brings hope and a sense of achievement for an entire generation.


Perhaps dissent is important. Questioning why the past to define the future.

Because if nobody rises above the known horizons of the present, nobody will ever find out what lies beyond.


From their warm hospitality to their passion for football, the only thing cold about J&K is its winters.

When you see youngsters practicing their skills tirelessly on cold mornings, you will warm up to the idea that there's a Kashmir that was hiding in the fog until now.


There are no off-sides when it comes to football in J&K. It traverses all ideologies, communities, opinions and the shadows of political history.

The only lines drawn here are on a green field pitching 11 versus 11 over a common goal.


Look closely enough and the portraits will tell you that the only thing hopeless about J&K is the lens we see it through.

If we change our perception, there's a lot more to see than meets the eye.


You have heard about it, read about it and seen it do the rounds on new channels for many reasons, but Downtown is telling a new story.

If we keep our eyes open, we will see through the cracks, the walled lanes, shut windows, and closed doors that change is here for good.


Beyond the headlines of national dailies, there's a good kind of tension weighing heavy on the shoulders of Kashmiri teens.

Following in the footsteps of the pro-footballers from the valley who are now making waves on the big stage.


Snow-clad mountains, meadows, clear skies and the new poster boys of football.

The rebirth of football is a sign that the shadows of a doomed past will have little say in defining the future of the valley.


Football knows no borders and is accepted with open, warm hearts even in places where cold is the only constant.


While there's nothing sophisticated about the quaint academies and sports camps popping around the valley, it will be a mistake to undermine them.

These non-profit communities will surely play a big part in training the next generation into not just athletes and footballers, but good human beings.


In the silent streets of Srinagar, there's a new two-state theory overshadowing everything else. People are divided between two choices, half believe in playing football and the rest love to watch it.

This is nothing but a reflection of the deep positive change that will define a new future.


While some things divide, there's more in the world that has the power to unite us.

Football in J&K is that common ground where the people's voice is united, cheering for one game, one team, one thing that puts them on the front page for a different reason.


At 14,000 ft and above, snow is the only constant.

Hostile weather conditions, hostile borders, yet it's surprising that football makes an appearance even in these remote areas like a silver lining.


Behind the cover stories, the only thing volatile in the calm waters of Dal are ripples.

Where school kids are forever on a journey to break down barriers between destiny and free will.



Harish Kotian