Srinagar: Passion was high and the excitement grew greater with each minute as locals came out in huge numbers to support Real Kashmir FC in their I-League match against Rajasthan United FC here — the first such game in the valley since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The synthetic turf at the TRC Grounds – the venue of the game – came alive after three years as football supporters filled up the stands on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
The match – won by RKFC 2-0 – was the first high-profile game in the valley since the outbreak of COVID-19.
As the players took to the ground, the spectators cheered for their team. The match referee’s whistles could hardly be heard amid the applause, drumbeats and whistles, and the occasional boos for the opponents.
The match had its moments – power-packed volleys, numerous headers, heated arguments between players, unruly scenes, as well as injuries.
There was no dull moment in the game and the crowd loved every single minute, with the cold conditions failing to dampen their spirit. They backed the RKFC players, sometimes tried to act like coaches, telling the players what to do.
“I am glad that our team lived up to the expectations of the huge crowd that had gathered to cheer the Snow Leopards. The enthusiasm was more because of the new local coach who is a an inspiration for the youth,” said RKFC owner Sandeep Chattoo.
With the crowd backing them to the hilt, the RKFC players kept the pressure on the visiting team throughout the game. Their defence was strong, and the attack stronger.
The team did not disappoint its supporters as it struck one past the rival team goal-keeper in the 21st minute through Moro Lamine, the 28-year-old Ghanaian centre-back, as the crowd stood on its feet.
The teams changed ends, but RKFC continued with their impressive ways. The Real Kashmir continued to dominate the match and struck again in the 77th minute through Jerry Pulamte.
Not only did the second goal break the back of the visiting team, it sent the spectators into a state of frenzy. The cheering grew louder and the atmosphere became electric.
The Real Kashmir FC flags flew high, the drum beats got louder and sloganeering shriller.
The acceptance of an imminent defeat could be sensed among Rajasthan players as they dropped their shoulders. When the referee signalled the end of the game, the Real Kashmir players rejoiced, and so did the crowd.
“It is after a long time we got to witness such a high-profile football game. We were waiting for the Snow Leopards to return to the valley and play at home,” Shahid Ahmad, an ardent RKFC supporter said.
He said the football fans in the valley had missed the game in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“Watching football on the ground is altogether a different experience. There is excitement, there is passion and adrenaline flows high. You cannot have that setting at home while watching it on television,” Ahmad said.
Tasaduq Amin, a football lover, said he enjoyed watching the Snow Leopards roar and expressed hope that the Real Kashmir would keep the momentum going in the next game. —PTI