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BBC documentary on Real Kashmir FC wins prestigious BAFTA Scotland award

A DOCUMENTARY ON Real Kashmir FC that aired on BBC Scotland earlier this year has won a BAFTA Scotland award.

The documentary, called "Real Kashmir FC" directed by Greg Clark, won the award in the "Single Documentary" section.

The film, which follows the I-League club's Scottish head coach David Robertson as its focal point, paints a vivid picture of the club's rise to India's top division league against the backdrop of violent political turmoil in Jammu & Kashmir.

The narrative shifts between a humourous and darkly serious as it follows Robertson, a former footballer who wanted to prove himself as a head coach, dealing with the unusual realities of living in a new part of the world that he moved to on short notice and facing its socio-political realities on a daily basis. 

Outside the pitch, he walks the streets of Srinagar, visits the market where he and his footballer-son Mason Robertson haggle for prices, dress up in local traditional clothings for photographs and marvel at shoes bearing brands like 'Rolex', 'Abidas.' He video chats with his wife back home, deals with power cuts and "hoses that replace toilet paper." He talks about the heavy military presence on the streets, the armed guards at his practice sessions, news of violence not far away and city-wide shutdowns in a matter-of-fact way that mirrors the local residents.

But once he gets on the pitch, he wears his emotions on the sleeves. He responds with anger and frustration to players making mistakes on the pitch, the dressing room arrangements being poor etc.

The process of the club's debut in I-League is also portrayed; with the owners Shamim Meraj and Sandeep Chattoo going through the process of preparing the TRC Turf Ground for a top division game, and talking about the social significance of the club's presence in the valley.

The film ends with Real Kashmir's preparatory games (3-2 win against Bengaluru FC) and first few matches in the league, with their debut away at Minerva Punjab (Ranjit Bajaj makes a memorable cameo appearance), and some home games where a sellout crowd turns up to support the club.

Overall, it's a unique time capsule for some of the most important moments in the club's early history, in the context of the political unrest engulfing the region.

With the club now forcefully relegated to second tier status along with other I-League clubs, and the AIFF dragging its feet on the start of the new season, this film serves as a reminder for what's at stake in Indian football as it waits for promotion-relegation to be re-applied to its league system.

The uniqueness of Real Kashmir FC, and its story of rising to the top despite having a low budget and limited resources, is a timely and necessary story that needed to be told and this film did it well.

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