Srinagar, Nov 18: The stage is set as I-League action returns to Kashmir after a two-year gap with hosts Real Kashmir FC to play its first home match of the season against Rajasthan United at Synthetic Turf TRC ground, here on Saturday.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament’s format was condensed for the previous two seasons. A double round-robin system with home and away games is once again in use as of this season.
The I-League still has powerful and well-known teams like Mohammedan Sporting Kolkatta, Gokulam Kerala FC, and Chennai City FC despite the absence of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal FC this season.
Real Kashmir FC had initially chosen Bakshi Stadium as its home venue this season. However, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) rejected the turf of Bakshi Stadium, forcing Real Kashmir FC to shift its home matches back to Synthetic Turf TRC ground.
On Friday, a pre-match press conference was held in which Real Kashmir FC and Rajasthan United addressed the media.
“It is great to be back and play in front of home fans. We have a new look team with new philosophy and fans will see a difference,” Real Kashmir FC coach Mehraj ud Din Wadoo said.
“Rajasthan is a well-organised side but in our home conditions it will not be easy for them to play against us,” Wadoo said.
About the contribution of Real Kashmir FC’s former coach David Robertson, Wadoo said, “In the development of Real Kashmir FC, David Robertson has got a huge role. It was he who laid the foundation of this club and that reflects in the fundamentals of the club,” he said.
About the AIFF rejecting Bakshi Stadium and the team having to play home matches at Synthetic Turf TRC Ground, Wadoo said,” We initially trained at Bakshi Stadium and as a former player and coach we prefer to play on grass. The team management asked us to shift base to Synthetic Turf and we agreed. I am not aware of the AIFF or any other formalities”.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan United Coach Pushpander Kundu said they are excited to play tomorrow’s match.
“We won the previous match and now want to defeat RKFC on its home ground. RKFC is playing in front of fans which will give them an advantage,” Kundu said.
In its first match of the season which was an away fixture, Real Kashmir FC defeated Neroca FC 1-0 goals. Rajasthan United also took all three points, trouncing Churchill Brothers on Tuesday.
Both the teams have started the season with a win and it would be interesting how the play unfolds in Srinagar on Saturday.