Football - Robertson
David Robertson, the Scottish coach, now feels ''attached'' with the club's fans and people of the Kashmir valley. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Kolkata: David Robertson, a former Scotland international footballer-turned-coach, has been the driving force behind the giant strides taken by Real Kashmir FC - the Indian football club from the strife-torn vallery over the last four years. It hasn’t gone unoticed as he was conferred a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List on June 12, 2021 for his ‘‘services to the local community of Jammu and Kashmir’’ during his coaching tenure with the club since 2017.

“I would like to dedicate this award to so many people who have contributed in their own way. The Snow Leopard (Real Kashmir FC) fans are certainly one of them — they are part of the family. Without their support, no club can succeed. The support and warmth they have given not only to me but the whole club is incredible. They drive us all on, I hope very soon we can hear them roar at TRC.” Robertson told ileague.org after winning the award.

From winning the Hero second Division League in 2018 to becoming the first club from the valley to compete in the Hero I-league, Robertson has been a key part of the incredible journey of the club which had enormous character against tremendous odds, including lack of infra-structure, to capture the imagination of Indian football fans. The Snow Leopards recently added another significant chapter in their journey by winning the 123rd edition of the IFA Shield tournament, one of the oldest football tournament in the world, last year.

Football-Real Kashmir
Jubilant members of Real Kashmir FC with the IFA Shield trophy which they won late last year. Image Credit: Twitter

“The sacrifices of my wife and family have allowed me to pursue my dream. My parents are also a huge part of my successful career. My mother passed away six months ago and my father passed away three weeks ago, just days after I was first notified of my award. I’m sad that they were not here to celebrate with me,” he added.

The 52-year-old, who played as a defender for Rangers, Aberdeen and Leeds United in England and donned the Scotland colours, took up coaching after retirement - managing clubs like Elgin City, Montrose and Phoenix FC in Scotland and the USA and now he feels “attached” to the people of the valley.

“I’m so proud to have been a part of an amazing story. When I arrived in Kashmir almost five years ago, I found it tough as it was a new experience but that soon changed as I was made to feel so welcome by everyone not only those involved at RKFC, but the general public when I walked down the streets. Now I feel so honoured and attached to the Kashmiri public, I feel so much appreciation for their continued support and feel I am working and wanting to do everything I can to give them a team to be proud of,” he recalled.

Robertson lauded Sandeep Chattoo and his family for standing as the backbone of the club. “I would like to thank Sandeep Chattoo and his family for all the support they have given me and their continued drive to keep the club moving forward. It’s a total pleasure to be part of such a great club. No one could believe where we are today from where we started. So many people have contributed on and off the pitch to make the club a success and we aim to keep striving for even more success’’, he added.