Kalyani (West Bengal): A lock down back home has left Real Kashmir players unable to communicate with family members but coach David Robertson said they "played with heart and soul" during their season-opening match in the Durand Cup here on Wednesday.
Real Kashmir FC beat Chennai City FC 1-0 through a Danish Farooq's last minute goal to begin their season on a winning note.
"We played with so much heart and soul, that's the secret of our success," Robertson said after the match.
Real Kashmir players assembled for the first time this season here late Monday night only to realise that they are cut off from family members back home due to telecommunication blackout in the aftermath of the scrapping of Article 370.
Despite the uncertainties back home, the mood in the Real Kashmir camp was spirited as the players who had come in three batches waited for their colleagues to reach at the team hotel.
"Everybody waited to meet each other, old friendships are back again in the lobby of the hotel and in the corridors they were all hugging each other and all talking and laughing with each other," said the Scottish coach.
"It shows you that just got special situation at the club. It has been built up over a couple years and maybe today we deifed some odds but it's what our club is made of," he said of the team.
"I think it has been built over the years, it's just heart and hunger that really made a success. Yes, they are a very talented group. It was a lot of good to get on this."
Robertson's counterpart Akbar Nawas, on the other hand, drew parallels with war-ravaged Iraq's AFC Asian Cup triumph in 2007 and said Real Kashmir players' biggest motivation was the situation back home.
"If you remember, Iraq won the Asian Cup by having similar circumstances. So that means when you have such circumstances, it might motivate you. But we don't go to the game and try to take advantage of that," Nawas said.
"I don't mix whatever that goes off the field. We are all very sad about whatever that is happening in Kashmir," the Singaporean added.
Talking about the preparations before this tournament, Robertson said, "Football-wise, we only trained for 90 minutes yesterday and we had not seen each other for three months. No fitness, no planning and we won the game with hunger and desire," Robertson said.
"A lot of players had come from long journeys from Africa, Europe and wherever. Regardless of whom you play against, to do that and on the first day or the second day of seeing each other is an incredible achievement."
"Guys like Danish, Farhan (Ganie), Loveday (Okechukwu), they played with so much heart. It's good that we got this so early in the season. So we are obviously delighted. We've set ourselves up."
Robertson said his side's goal would be to win the I-League this season. They were in title contention at one stage before finishing third.
"We still have got a long way for the I-League. We can't get carried away. There's no point peaking early, and then let ourselves down later. Our aim is to try and do better than last season.
"My players never failed to amaze me and surprise me in some ways, in terms of performances. Last season probably we had the lowest budget and finished third and maybe with four or five games, we could have won the championship," he said, hailing the team.
For the I-League champions Chennai City, the Durand Cup was meant to select the players for the upcoming I-League as they are giving chance to the local players.
"We had only a week or two of training sessions and I think there was about 12 to 13 new players. Only three players of last year's team was playing this time around. I think they give a good account of themselves," coach Nawas said.
With the team in the AFC Cup, Nawas said there was no point calling the foreigners for the Durand Cup.
"They will only join us towards the end of August because we and Bengaluru FC will be playing in the AFC. If I take this Durand Cup and bring in foreigners we will be in trouble. So we needed to plan properly.
Updated Date: Aug 07, 2019 21:52:08 IST