Fresh from its fruitful I-League season, Real Kashmir FC braces up to take on ATK, an Indian Super League (ISL) club in the Hero Super Cup pre-quarterfinal contest at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Monday.
Real Kashmir finished third in its maiden I-League season, eliciting praise from Steve Coppell, the ATK head coach. He said: “I have seen quite a few of their games on TV and they are a team that deserve and demand respect. They have some really good players and they have a particular style which has produced a lot of goals. Hopefully it will be a really good game.”
He added: “Finishing third in the I-League in their debut season is a great achievement. They play very attractive football and [David Roberston, the head coach] has done a great job. We know we are in for a tough game [on Monday] and may the best team win.”
ATK, on the other hand, had a more middling campaign in the ISL, finishing sixth. Robertson, however, was wary of a tough challenge as he felt his team will have to deal with a tougher level of football. “There is really a big difference and obviously the level of playing against, ISL is a step up. So, they’ve got a budget lot more than ours. Maybe their top foreign players are more than our overall budget. So, we know it is going to be a tough game. But like every game this season, we’ve been underdogs and we’ve just gone and enjoyed the first season in the I-League, and the step up. [Monday] is another little bit of history for the club as well. First time in the Super Cup. So, it’s been a fantastic couple of years here,” stated Robertson.
Weighing in on Real Kashmir’s chances of creating an upset, Robertson said, “On our day, we can beat anyone. I think for us it is a good test for our players and the team to see how far we’ve come.”
Robertson paid tribute to the team spirit the club has fostered over the past season, a factor that has allowed the side to achieve much success. “I think it’s just been the team spirit, togetherness from the ownership through to the ball boys, the kit men, everything. Everybody has played a huge part. We’ve spent a long time because of our logistics. Even in I-League two we spent a lot of time, 30 days at a time, on the road, together, staying together. It’s the same this season as well. I think the team spirit and the bond and I think the hunger as well this season has been huge,” he said.