Srinagar, Feb 18: Despite adequate arrangements and advanced security put in place at the venue, Minerva Punjab FC Monday didn’t turn up for its scheduled match against Real Kashmir FC in the ongoing I-League, resulting in the cancelling of the game.
Although the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and local security administration had given a go-ahead for the game, the 17th match for both the teams did not take place as Minerva, till the eleventh hour, argued over the assurances of their safety.
Prior to the match, the Deputy SP of the Security wing in Kashmir and other relevant authorities met with the match commissioner Michael Andrews and host club Real Kashmir FC’s representatives to assure them of full safety.
The referees, who had reached Srinagar on Friday to assess security for Minerva Punjab FC, were awaiting the arrival of the travelling club.
Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj continued arguing over his club’ safety assurances from the home team and Ministry of Home Affairs.
The host team reached to the match venue as per the schedule to begin its mandatory pre -match warm-up session at the turf.
Scores of the spectators in colourful clothes had reached the stadium to cheer for RKFC.
Many, however, left without entering the stadium after learning that Minerva had not arrived in Srinagar.
The match commissioner and referees, as per the norm, entered the playground and waited, at least, for one hour, before officially cancelling the game.
While the match couldn’t happen, a decision on whether or not to award the three points to Real Kashmir is yet to be taken.
As per AIFF statement, the Match Commissioner’s report is being forwarded to the League Committee of the federation for further action.
“With Hero I-League defending champions Minerva Punjab FC failing to turn up for their scheduled match against Real Kashmir FC on February 18, 2019 at TRC ground in Srinagar, the Match Commissioner’s report along with other relevant documents are being referred to the All India Football Federation’s League Committee for further action as per the I-League Regulations,” the statement said.
“Despite the tragic events which have unfolded in Kashmir over the past few days, football for the people of Jammu and Kashmir has been maintained on schedule, with assistance from the security provided by the authorities,” it added.
Calling it a “sad day for football”, RKFC expressed regretted over the visitors failing to show up for the match.
Real Kashmir posted a video of the set-up at the Astro Turf here for the match but called it “shameful” that Minerva did not turn up.
“Sad day for football. We play to heal not spread hate. Normal day in Srinagar but @minervapunjabfc did not turn up. This ain’t football. All teams felt safe and enjoyed in Srinagar ask @Mohun_Bagan @NerocaFC @AizawlFC @Churchill_Goa @lajongfc @ChennaiCityFC @GokulamKeralaFC @ILeagueOfficial,” Real Kashmir FC tweeted.
RKFC head coach David Robertson said his club deserves three points out of the game.
“We were readying for this game for the last week. It is disappointing that the game couldn’t take place,” he said.
Asked whether the long break will affect the performances of his players, David said: “It has its own pros and cons. A long break can prove good for players and at the same time can kill the momentum.”
Lashing out at Minerva, RKFC’s Technical Director, Manzoor Ahmad Dar said the team should have kept football aloof from politics.
“The situation was favourable here, which was made clear during the Match Commissioner’s meeting with the local police. But still Minerva Punjab FC didn’t show up,” he said.
Dar said the team’s media cell was in touch with the AIFF regarding the results of Monday’s cancelled match.
“We are unbeaten and a strong title contender. Minerva not showing up could be an attempt to negatively impact our team’s position in the league,” he alleged.