Minerva Punjab deny forfeiting I-League match against Real Kashmirhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/football/minerva-punjab-deny-forfeiting-i-league-match-against-real-kashmir-5588237/

Minerva Punjab deny forfeiting I-League match against Real Kashmir

Minerva Punjab have denied that they have forfeited their I-League match against Real Kashmir that is due to be played in Srinagar on Monday.

Minerva had earlier raised concerns over playing a football match in Srinagar after Thursday’s terror attack in Pulwama, South Kashmir. (Express Photo by Rohit Mundayur)

Minerva Punjab have denied forfeiting their upcoming I-League match against Real Kashmir that is scheduled for Monday (February 18). “Contrary to the media report, Minerva Punjab has not “forfeited” the match against Real Kashmir tomorrow,” the club said in a statement. Minerva had earlier raised concerns over playing a football match in Srinagar following Thursday’s terror attack in Pulwama, South Kashmir.

This comes a day after Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj was quoted as saying that the club will not play the match. “We are not going to play the match, we will forfeit it. We have decided it and I have no second thought in doing that,” Bajaj was quoted as saying by PTI.

“Minerva Punjab FC is ready to play the match at any safe venue. Minerva Punjab had asked home team and AIFF to produce written assurance/permission from Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI [Government of India] or Indian Army for the match to go ahead, which have not been given to us till now. In fact, no written safety assurance has been given by any authority at all. Therefore, we cannot be expected to travel to Srinagar at our own risk,” said the club.

The club said their foreign players are being advised to not travel to the region. They further added that if three points are given to Real Kashmir for the match “despite failing to provide security assurances” Minerva will appeal the decision and “consider moving to court for relief.”

On Saturday, Real Kashmir, through a tweet, announced that they had the go ahead from local authorities . “Hope to see them and @THE_RanjitBajaj in Srinagar tomm. Let’s play to heal.@ILeagueOfficial,” said the club in the tweet.

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I-League’s handle retweeted Real Kashmir saying: “Kudos to @realkashmirfc, @minervapunjabfc and @THE_RanjitBajaj for showing the right spirit. Football prevails above all. Let’s play to heal.” However, Minerva Punjab responded to both tweets separately and stated that the club has not agreed to travel to Kashmir.

Real Kashmir’s matches at the TRC Ground in Srinagar have mostly been played in front of sell-out crowds amidst high security. For their first match against Churchill Brothers, the fans had to go through three layers of security while negotiating the final 50 yards that took them to the stands. The routine has been followed for other home games as well.

The teams that have travelled to Kashmir have received extra protection as well, with a security vehicle and nearly a dozen personnel being present with them at all times.

Apart from Minerva, Real Kashmir’s title rivals East Bengal, too, have sought clarity from the AIFF over the security scenario in Srinagar. The Kolkata giants are scheduled to play Real Kashmir in Srinagar on February 28 in what can potentially be a title-deciding match.