The true Kashmir no longer has new children on the block, says coach Robertson

KOLKATA: Real cashmere FC returned to the city with new aspirations, some additional pressure, but also with the luggage of some perennial problems.

Four months ago when David Robertson 's side landed here to play in the Durand Cup, it coincided with the central government's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu &cashmereandenforceacommunicationlockdown.

As cashmere continues to remain a much-debated topic in political powwows, the Robertson-managed Snow Leopards are here again, hoping to let their football do the talking and aiming to rise against the odds as they begin their I-League campaign against East Bengal in Kalyani on Wednesday.

As Real cashmere would now be carrying a different tale of grit and determination from the Valley, their Scottish coach insisted that he was interested more in the team's growth and taking it to new heights.

"As a foreigner, I'm not qualified to talk about this ( cashmere issues). I have been in cashmere for three years and have enjoyed every second in the place. I am here for football and am interested only in the success of Real cashmere ," Robertson, the former Glasgow Rangers and Leeds United left-back, said during an interaction with media persons here on Monday.

The (political) situation has never been a problem for us as a team. We are focused on the same work and the same motivation, he added.

Khalid Qayoom, one of the team's local players, echoed the sentiment. For the first two months (since we played in the Durand Cup), we have been busy playing and doing preseason training away from home. The next two months were at home and they have been good for us. We have not seen anything unusual. We train in the main field. Yes, the level of concentration may be slightly affected, but as professionals we have to deal with those things, said the midfielder.

RKFC, which briefly revived the hopes of a fairytale ending in its debut season before settling for third place, is launching its campaign at some critical moments for both the club and the league. The competition may now be out of the first drawer in the national football pyramid of India, but this Valley team is still a groundbreaking story, with a documentary about them that has just won an award at the British Academy of Film and Television, Scotland.

Robertson admitted that his team would now have to meet the growing expectations of the public.

Probably for the first time in the history of the club, especially after finishing third last year and having won the second division of the league two years ago, expectations are high not only for us but also for the owners and followers of the team. We are not children in the block anymore. So there will be more pressure on us this time. If we can defend the way we defended last season and if we are more clinical against the goal, we can achieve our goal. One-year-old Scot said.

Happy with the preseason, Robertson now knows it's time to talk.

We had a four-month preseason, probably the longest I've had, maybe longer than the season itself. And our preparation has been better than we had last year. Hopefully it looks ... let's see, he said.

However, in Alejandro Menéndez's East Bengal, RKFC will see an old adversary, who is equally determined to win the league.

East Bengal, I personally feel, are one of the best teams, if not the best, in the last season. They have a good coach and very good team. Playing against this team away is perhaps the toughest start for us to the new I-League season, Robertson admitted.