David Robertson: Manager, wife and son stuck in India due to coronavirus lockdown

By Martin WattBBC Scotland
'I never thought I'd be in the situation we're in now' - Robertson

Lockdown has been an occupational hazard for David Robertson ever since he began work as manager of Real Kashmir in the world's most militarised zone.

This time it's different, though. As the whole of India's 1.4 billion population was put under strict restrictions on Wednesday in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Scot saw his hopes of making it home to Aberdeen evaporate.

A complete 21-day lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, followed the suspension of domestic and international flights.

The measures are more stringent than anything Robertson has faced before in the Kashmir region fraught with political tensions, where suicide bombings have forced games to be cancelled and killings are a "daily occurrence".

And it leaves the 51-year-old, wife Kim and son Mason, who plays for Real Kashmir, stranded 4,000 miles from home.

"It's a scary time in the world and our family being split apart makes it even more difficult," the former Aberdeen, Rangers and Scotland full-back told BBC Scotland.

"It's hard being away from home, particularly being parents. We've got one child here but another two in Scotland and we want to all be together.

"My daughter is at home and my son was in Mexico, but he was lucky to get one of the last flights out of there and got home a day or so ago.

"Both my wife's parents and my parents are also in Aberdeen, and they're obviously elderly, so there is a concern being so far away."

'I'd imagine the food will dry up at some point'

For most of the past week Robertson, Kim and Mason have been confined to a hotel owned by Real Kashmir's owner.

But with access now severely restricted, he fears they may run out of essential supplies.

"Srinagar Airport is now closed, so the only way to get in is a single-track road most of the way from Delhi, which takes 12 hours," said Robertson.

"It is like the side of a cliff, there's no barriers, it's quite dangerous. I've done that road once before and I swore I would never do it again.

"Now with the total lockdown, no-one will be able to leave the hotel to get food. So eventually I'd imagine the food will dry up at some point.

"Thankfully there's only a handful of us left. A lot of the Indian players have gone home. But I think it's just being in a strange place, a foreign country miles from home and sort of shut off from the rest of India, which is quite worrying."

Promotion and progress in Indian top flight

David Robertson and Mason Robertson
Robertson recruited son Mason in 2018

Robertson is prepared for anything after the myriad of challenges he has faced in three years in charge of Real Kashmir.

He led the club to promotion to the Indian top flight in his debut campaign and was on track to at least match last season's third-place finish when football was suspended earlier this month.

"It's a worldwide scare, but this kind of situation has been part and parcel of coaching or playing with Real Kashmir," he added.

"Ourselves and the team are used to being in the hotel when there has been a shutdown, because of political reasons. There have been times we've had no internet, there were three weeks this season when we couldn't make phone calls. I think we're used to every issue that arises.

"I've had a great experience here, the football side of it has been great. I've learned a lot, it's made me a better person. The club started from nothing and is now quite famous, we've been successful. But at the moment I just want to get home."

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