SRINAGAR- Eyebrows were raised when ex-Rangers player David Robertson decided to take in the reins of a rookie club in Kashmir, but now a year down the line he knows the risk he took paid off mighty well four ready job offers to be precise.
It was indeed a win-win situation for both — the team and the coach. While Real Kashmir FC in May became the first club in the Valley to make it into the I-League, for the coach the job offers are coming rather thick and fast.
The Srinagar-based club was started by two friends Sandeep Chatto and Shamim Meraj to help the community reeling from the devastating floods in 2014.
For me loyalty is everything. I am here for the cause for Kashmir. But mind you, it is not that only the team is benefiting out of it, when we made it into I-League, I got four job offers. This team, its players, its owners means a lot to me. I am always there for this team. Of course, the day I feel I am not the best person for the job… I will be the first person to call it quits,” said Robertson, who was a find of the rather famous Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson and had played for Rangers and Aberdeen.
Robertson, thanks to his frowning face and brawny physique, is certainly not the friendliest of person to interview. However, that is only till the time you don’t get to talk to him. Making a perception, that too in a jiffy, can go horribly wrong. And who knows it better than Robertson himself.
He wanted to leave Kashmir as soon as he landed there for the first time. I had never been to India let alone Kashmir. Also, I thought that Kashmir is hot, like the rest of India. But to my shock when I reached the airport here it was winter time and a day into it there was snow. Power cut, no internet… I was ready to go. But then the club owner persuaded me to stay, and now I am so glad that he did that,” he said.
Robertson, who has worked in China and Uganda before, was in New York when an agent got him in touch with Meraj the co-owner — and before he even knew he was in Kashmir.
Last year when asked to sign the deal, the coach admitted that there was this lingering apprehension back home about Kashmir not being the safest of places. But that was then, now Robertson calls the place as safe as any other in the world.
Kashmir is a lot safer. In fact it is safer than a lot of places in the world. Of course, if you are in the wrong place you will be in trouble… and that is true for so many places, be it Phoenix or Glasgow.
But to be fair, adjusting to the Indian way of life takes time. More so when you are in Kashmir, and the list includes building an appetite for the much-enticing ‘wazwan’ and putting up with the pan-Indian poor time keeping. Here time keeping is terrible and I tell this to everyone. They pray five times a day. Anyway, this is something that I have come to understand and respect.
But then there are just so many excuses… one player didn’t make for the practice on time because his motorbike got punctured. Now this thing happened four times in the same month. Yes, for proof he would send me a photo of the flat tyre just that it was the same photo every single time, he said, barely able to control his laughter.
That said, the players too had their complaints against the coach all in a jocular way.
While veteran midfielder Khalid Qayoom was asked to make an almost impossible sacrifice of the irresistible ‘white-meat balls’ (gushtaba) for the sake of football, Danish Farooq said the coach, who has little or no knowledge of Hindi language, has somehow picked up Hindi abuses and uses it against them during training.
Waise woh bol dete hain par unhe matlab kisi ka nahi pata (Yes, he abuses. But he doesn’t know the meaning of any one of them), said Danish smilingly.
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