The Punjab club did not travel to Srinagar for their I-League fixture, claiming they did so as no written security assurances were given
Defending I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC on Monday approached the Delhi Hight Court to challenge the the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) after the latter had refused to shift their match against Real Kashmir FC away from Srinagar in the wake of the Pulwama terrorist attack. Minerva did not travel to the strife-torn state for the game after claiming that they were not given the written security assurances they sought, even though the host team players and match referees showed up at the TRC Turf Ground in their jerseys.
What is of particular note is the fact that AIFF has not yet declared the match as forfeiture. As per FIFA guidelines, in the event of a forfeiture, full points are awarded to the team that did turn up for the game. “We have filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, seeking relief so that we are not forced to play in Srinagar at this volatile time,” Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj told PTI. “Even today there was a 12-hour encounter where four Army men have been martyred. And they are saying ‘come and play football here’. Unless the court intervenes, we are not expecting natural justice.”
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar, in a statement, had this to say: “The local security authorities in Srinagar have given a go ahead to hold the match. The AlFF has assured of all the necessary arrangements for players and officials by the local authority,” adding that the “whole security arrangement of the players from the airport to the team hotel and from travelling from the hotel to the ground and return, everything was taken care of.”
Also of major doubt is the February 28 clash between East Bengal and Real Kashmir, also to be played in Srinagar. The match holds significance in the title picture as both teams are chasing leaders Chennai City FC, and the victors here could have a say in the final standings.
Real Kashmir FC co-founders Sandeep Chattoo and Shamim Meraj also expressed their disappointment at the match not taking place. “It’s very unfortunate that the match could not take place today at TRC, we had made all the necessary arrangements for the visiting team and had got the local authorities supporting us. Despite apprehensions, a lot of locals turned up for the match.”
It is unfortunate that such an incident has once again come in the way of sports, and in this instance a really fascinating title battle for India’s top football prize. Most quarters are unhappy with Minerva not showing up, feeling that the holders showing up and playing would have a sent a symbol of unity and strength to both the public and the perpetrators of the dastardly act. But any comments must be reserved until the AIFF comes up with a final decision, and if Minerva will further drag the issue with the court.