There was euphoria in Srinagar after Real Kashmir FC won the 2nd Division I-League and became as the first club from Jammu & Kashmir to participate in the top-tier of Indian football.
But as things stand, chances are bleak that the Leopards of Kashmir would get to play their home games in Srinagar. The Bakshi Stadium in the city is under renovation and the TRC Turf Ground, which hosted the 2nd Division matches, lacks proper infrastructure to host a top-division league match.
"It is a problem for us to play in Srinagar as the pitch quality is not good enough. Rains have further worsened the matter. We are willing to play from Kashmir, for obvious reasons, but it will be difficult to get a go-ahead from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) when their inspection team visits the ground. But we are hoping for the best," said a club source to Goal.
After the 2014 floods damaged some portion of the Bakshi stadium, the state sports council began its renovation work in October 2017. Rs.39 crore has been allotted for this project by the Central Government and the execution of work has been entrusted to National Project Construction Corporation Ltd (NPCC).
The Real Kashmir management have already started to look for alternative venues and Delhi seems to be the most preferred destination at the moment.
Interestingly, a renovation of the TRC ground is on the cards which will get a green light after a meeting with J&K Governor Narinder Nath Vohra, where representatives from the club, the Jammu and Kashmir Football Association (JKFA) and the AIFF are expected to be present.
"We are in touch with the JKFA. We are supposed to meet the governor soon and plan the renovation that is required. But only after the meeting and final inspection we can confirm that whether Real Kashmir would play get to play from Srinagar," said a top AIFF official.