The story of the Real Kashmir Football Club continues to travel wide and reach people and audiences far outside its troubled homeland.
An hour-long documentary made on Real Kashmir FC for BBC Scotland won the BAFTA Scotland award for the best Single Documentary, with director Greg Clark also receiving a nomination for his work. The awards were handed out on Sunday night in Glasgow, with RKFC co-owner Sandeep Chattoo also present at the event and on the stage as a guest of the filmmakers.
The BAFTA awards night, complete with its red carpet and star presence, Chattoo said, had been “something I’ve never seen before”. It was the response of the audience to the documentary that surprised and moved him. “The team’s story being recognised means everything to me, so many people knew about the club and followed it. It was awesome.
The BBC Scotland team had spent nearly two months with RKFC around their 2018-2019 debut season in the I League first division for the making of the film. RKFC were the first club from Jammu & Kashmir to qualify for the I League first division and central to the documentary was the story of their Scottish coach, David Robertson.
A former international and a highly successful and respected club professional, Robertson had taken his team into the I-League top division in his second season. The unusual circumstances in which both coach and club operated in Kashmir’s highly sensitive and volatile political environment became material ripe for the filmmakers.
Chattoo, who was called on stage by director Clark to receive the award, had people come up to him during the post-ceremony dinner. It made him fully understand, “The response of people to the documentary first and what it has done to David’s already popular image in Scotland. He is more than a superstar there now.” Clark also acknowledged the support that he had received from the club for the filming.
RKFC’s co-owner Shamim Miraj, talked of an early conversation with Clark, “Greg in fact when he started filming insisted, saying, ‘if I don’t win a BAFTA for this one, I am going to give up filming.’ After ESPN, BBC Scotland was the first group that came to film us. It was something so new for them also. They knew it was going to be compelling television.”
Chattoo says, “people recognise Real Kashmir as a young club which has struggled. And it’s not just because the club is in Srinagar and David is the coach. The club has performed exceptionally well.” In their debut first division season, RKFC finished third in the I-League behind champions Chennai City and East Bengal. Chattoo was surprised how much people at the BAFTA awards knew about the club, having being asked questions about the new team and its new season. Questions were also asked about Kashmir “And how it is now. How’s the situation?” and whether RKFC would be able to play home games. “I said yes, and had to explain what we are doing to ensure that we will play home games there.”
Regardless of the goodwill built around RKFC in terms of public support and performance, external support, particularly financial aid officially promised after the first season, is yet to materialize. “We have got nothing yet, not the state government grant, not the JK bank money. Though we met everybody in the government after the offices re-opened and they assured everybody that whatever has been promised by the government would come through. Let’s hope it comes through fast because running the club is not easy.”
The team has just finished its ten-day break, the foreign players housed in Chattoo’s Srinagar hotel, like the public without internet. The second season is going to have more than its share of hurdles and obstacles for a team from the Valley. “We have a lot more complex situation now and first we are waiting for the fixtures to come through… phones are working but not having internet is causing concern.” It had been difficult for the foreigners in the squad – nine, including six players and three coaching staff from Britain, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia – to be without the internet, “But I’m told they are okay now, they’ve now gotten used to it. Everyone is together in the hotel and mingled like a family.”
In its brief life as a three year-old club, RKFC has always relied on belief, a wing and prayer. Chattoo believes the season two RKFC is “a better squad, with stronger striking power and we hope to perform very well and better our performance of last year.” The film, Miraj said, “does put Kashmir on the map for a good reason.” Director Clark’s team, he said, has already received a commission to shoot Season Two and were waiting for permissions to travel to Kashmir and start shooting.