2nd Div I-League Team Profile : LoneStar Kashmir Football Club
About the team
It takes extraordinary courage and determination to develop something new in a place like Kashmir. The beautiful valley has been marred by violence and political conflicts for far too long, and youngsters are still trying to find their identity. As such, the efforts undertaken by Lonestar Kashmir FC, the state’s first professional football club has been commendable. Established in 2013, the Lonestar group has been their primary sponsor. Registered to the Jammu and Kashmir Football Association, they have been playing all the major competitions in the state under private companies act as per the All India Football Federation Club licensing criteria. Having found a home at the Synthetic Turf Stadium in Srinagar, they have been participating in the 2nd division of the I-League since 2014-15.
Previous year’s second division's performances
In their debut season in the 2nd division (2014-15),they had ended as runners-up to the-then champions Aizawl FC and missed out on promotion. The club had failed to make it to the 1st division last campaign as well, despite having made it to the final rounds of the play-offs in the lower tier. Damning defeats to Mohammedan SC and Minerva Punjab FC drove the nails in their dreams of making it to the topmost tier of Indian football, but they could hold their heads high given the results. Despite having no foreigners in the squad, they put in several noteworthy performances which created quite a buzz in the valley and helped generate local interest in the game.
First Round Performance this season
In the preliminary rounds, Lonestar Kashmir FC was pitted against Delhi United, Real Kashmir FC and Sudeva Moonlight FC in Group A. After the group stage games ended, the results saw them finish atop their group with 10 points from 6 games, one point ahead Delhi United.
29 Jan - Sudeva Moonlight FC 0-2 Lonestar Kashmir FC
2nd Feb - Delhi United 0-0 Lonestar Kashmir FC
18th Feb - Lonestar Kashmir 0-1 Real Kashmir FC
22nd Feb - Real Kashmir FC 1-0 Lonestar Kashmir FC
2nd Mar - Lonestar Kashmir FC 2-0 Delhi United FC
4th Mar - Lonestar Kashmir FC 2-1 Sudeva Moonlight, Delhi
Target in the final round
As mentioned earlier, Lonestar has always fallen at the final hurdle when it comes to qualifications. This year, they will be determined to make the cut, but they will not have it easy. Having been drawn against Delhi United, Neroca FC, Southern Samity, Fateh Hyderabad AFC and Kenkre FC in the final stages, the “All-Indian” squad will need to show some real grit to make through to the next stage. They will be content with top 3 finish with their all-Indian squad.
Players to Watch out for
The 29-year old defender captains the side, and is at easily the heart of the team, having played joined them in the 2015-16 season after spending most of his playing career at Mumbai FC. A Kashmiri by birth, he is exceptionally well-built and is rarely bullied by opposition forwards. He will be a force to reckon with.
A winger of considerable repute, Waris Amin has been tormenting defenders in the 2nd division and will be looking to continue his exploits in the final stages as well.
A goal scoring midfielder in the mould of a certain Frank Lampard, Aafik has been the leading scorer for his team with 4 goals in the campaign so far. His ability to make impeccable runs into the box often catches the opposition off guard, which helps him score goals and creates chances.
The coach and his influence
The Head Coach of the Team is Mr. Hilal Rasool who is an AFC PRO License Coach and who has been making headlines in the state following his ability to consistently excel despite meagre resources. He has been with the team since its inception and has the trust of the management as his philosophy of nurturing local talents boots well with the management.
The management has also appointed a good panel of Assistant Coaches for youth development programs. In fact, 22 of the players are from the state itself, with just one footballer from Punjab. This certainly bodes well for the game in the war-torn state.
What will they bring to the I-League?
The state is filled with talents but lack of exposure means, they get lost in the valley or in the hillock villages. Only Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Ishfaq Ahmed have been able to break the shackles in recent times and have made a name for themselves and the state.
Recently, Mohammed Asrar Rehbar and Basit Ahmed, both aged 18 got selected for Sociedad Deportiva Lenense Proinastur, a third division professional club in Spain for a period of six months and their contract are most likely to be extended after the season is over.
If Lonestar do make it to the top division, it would definitely give a bigger platform to the footballers of the state to showcase their talent. Their participation would also bring the state into the mainstream football circuit and will further expose the players to bigger clubs. They will further underlined the valley’s growing influence in the Indian footballing circuit.
Last but not the least, it would also help the state attract more tourist in the form of travelling away fans, though still a very small number but growing rapidly.
The club’s ability to survive in the I-League if promoted
Investment is the key here. The club is being solely promoted by the Lonestar Group and they are not having it easy in the 2nd Division itself and I-League is a different ball-game all together. Travelling round the country, hotels, cost of I-League level facilities for players, salaries etc will become a big burden for the Lonestar group.
However, nothing can be dead set in football and with active marketing partners, if they can rope in couple of sponsors, they can take a leave out of Shillong Lajong and run the club successfully with a shoe-string budget.
Goalkeepers: Harpreet Singh, Shabir Hussain Ganai.
Defenders: Muhammad Hammad, Vinay Kumar, Basalat Javid, Suhail Ahmad Bhat, Afzaal Akhtar, Kamaljeet Kumar (Captain), Gulshan Kumar.
Midfielders: Khalid Qayoom, Bilal Ahmad, Dashyang Kachru Ooo, Ubaid Haroon, Aafik Javaid, Arun Nagial.
Forwards: Waris Amin, Karun Raina, Waqar Ahmad Malik.
Final Round Fixtures
1) Fateh Hyderabad AFC vs Lonestar Kashmir FC - 8th April
2) Southern Samity vs Lonestar Kashmir FC - 13th April
3) Kenkre FC vs Lonestar Kashmir FC - 18th April
4) Lonestar Kashmir FC vs Fateh Hyderabad AFC - 25th April
5) Delhi United vs Lonestar Kashmir FC - 30th April
6) Neroca vs Lonestar Kashmir FC - 6th May
7) Lonestar Kashmir FC vs Southern Samity - 14th May
8) Lonestar Kashmir FC vs Kenkre FC- 17th May
9) Lonestar Kashmir FC vs Neroca FC- 22th May
10) Lonestar Kashmir FC vs Delhi United - 28th May