Amid uncertainty over their home fixtures in Srinagar owing to the Pulwama terror attack, Real Kashmir were given a boost from an unlikely source. Even as their fate to host games is in limbo and their most recent fixture, against defending I-League champions Minerva Punjab, could be decided in the court than the football field, they were handed an offer by a team they aren’t scheduled to host in the foreseeable future. Former I-League champions and now Indian Super League club Bengaluru FC’s owner Parth Jindal on Tuesday tweeted that they are ready to travel to Srinagar to play an exhibition match.
Dear @realkashmirfc we @bengalurufc are ready to come and play an exhibition match in Srinagar against youll whenever you invite us. We look forward to the opportunity of sharing this beautiful game in your beautiful state which is an integral part of our great country.
— Parth Jindal (@ParthJindal11) 19 February 2019
Real Kashmir said that they are hopeful of playing the friendly game in March before the scheduled start of the 2019 Indian Super Cup. With Kashmir expecting to finish in the top half of the I-League table and Bengaluru FC also slated to go through the semi-final of the Indian Super League, both sides are within a chance of qualifying for the annual tournament.
“It’s very early as we are in the final stages of the I-League and they are also involved in the Indian Super League,” said Real Kashmir co-owner Shamim Mehraj. “But we can assure you that the match should happen in March before the scheduled start of the Super Cup.” The final round of the Super Cup is expected to start on March 29 with the qualifiers slated to played on March 15 and 16.
The offer for the friendly came from Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal amidst uncertainty surrounding Real Kashmir’s ability to host matches in Srinagar in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans on February 14. Apart from Minerva, Kolkata club East Bengal, whose away match against Real Kashmir was scheduled to be played on February 28, have sent a letter to the All India Football Federation asking for a change in venue and are awaiting a response.
Thank you @ParthJindal11 and @bengalurufc. Let’s do this. We and the people of Kashmir would be more than glad to host you. March? What say? We promise the most electric football atmosphere! Let’s play to heal. Let’s pray together for the departed and share the grief of bereaved. pic.twitter.com/x7YG2Jx7IT
— Real Kashmir FC (@realkashmirfc) 19 February 2019
Jindal, however, said that Bengaluru FC are “not worried” on that front. “We think that they (Real Kashmir) and the government will take enough steps to safeguard anybody who goes to Kashmir. That’s the job of the armed forces so I don’t have any doubts about that,” Jindal said. “In fact, I believe when Bengaluru does go they would amplify the security. So we feel quite comfortable about that.”
“We have been wanting to play them for a while and have been in touch with them for quite some time,” he said. “But obviously, I wanted to show my solidarity to them and their fans after the recent events.”
Jindal said that officials from both clubs are in touch and discussing a possible date for the match, the constraints of which will be purely dependent on the footballing calendar.
Mehraj also said that the club is hopeful of three points and three goals from the I-League match against defending champions Minerva Punjab that was to be played on Monday in Srinagar. Minerva did not turn up for the game at the scheduled 2pm kick-off time, citing security concerns due to the match being played soon after the attack in Pulwama.
“All we want is fair play,” said Mehraj. “The rule book has to be followed and as per that, we should get three points and three goals.” Minerva’s petition challenging the AIFF’s refusal to postpone the match against is expected to come up for hearing on Friday at the Delhi High court, the club’s lawyers said Tuesday,