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Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021: Aberdeen cup hero honoured for inspiring footballers in war-torn Indian community

David Robertson, pictured centre, with son Mason, pictured left, and an armed guard.
David Robertson, pictured centre, with son Mason, pictured left, and an armed guard.

An Aberdeen cup hero will receive a British Empire Medal for helping to inspire a generation of football talent in a war-torn part of India.

David Robertson won a Scottish Cup and League Cup double with the Dons in the 1989/90 season before moving to Rangers.

He was appointed manager of Indian side Real Kashmir four years ago and provided joy to the community, which has been the scene of conflict between India and Pakistan for decades, by winning its first major honour in December.

Honour comes months after losing parents

However, the joy of receiving the honour has been “tinged with sadness” due to the football coach losing his mother Muriel last November, and his father Leslie in May.

Mr Robertson said: “It’s been a hard couple of weeks losing my father. He’d been battling oesophageal cancer but was hospitalised with an infection and his body wasn’t strong enough to fight it.

David Robertson with parents Leslie and Muriel and wife Kym.

“I told my father about my BEM when he was in hospital before he passed away. He was pretty much unconscious, but his eyes fluttered occasionally when we talked to him, so hopefully he’s gone to see my mum and tell her the good news.”

Mr Robertson’s work in Kashmir has encompassed more than just managing the local football team.

He has worked with children and undertaken community work to win the hearts of the locals and increase attendances.

The 52-year-old’s exploits were the subject of a Scottish Bafta-winning documentary.

‘I’m glad I persevered in Kashmir’

After leaving the Dons, Mr Robertson won more trophies with Rangers, played for Scotland three times and in his later career managed both Elgin City and Montrose.

And the Aberdeen cup winner revealed his former teammates think he is a “bit crazy” to be managing in Kashmir.

He said: “I’ve enjoyed every second – apart from the first two weeks – in Kashmir. My first impressions of Kashmir when I first arrived was I just wanted to go straight back home because it was just a total culture shock.

David Robertson won both the Scottish Cup and League Cup at Aberdeen. Photo: SNS.

“But I’m glad I’ve persevered and it’s like a second home now.

“When Covid hit we were stuck in Kashmir for 49 days until we could be repatriated home. We needed so many permits to get out and the UK Government did a fantastic job.

“But it’s all these dramas that make this award special and totally different to anything else I’ve ever won in my career.”

Sir Philip Barton, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, congratulated all those on the honours list.

He said: “The UK’s impact around the world depends on exceptional people like those recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. We are grateful for their outstanding contribution.”

What is it like managing Real Kashmir?

Long read: Boss David Robertson on Real Kashmir’s battle for I-League title as five teams share Kolkata hotel

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