New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday decided to reschedule and relocate the I-League match between Minerva Punjab FC and Real Kashmir FC which was supposed to be held in Srinagar last month.
The match was abandoned after Minerva refused to play in Srinagar following the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 which led to the martyrdom of at least 40 CRPF soldiers.
Minerva had even approached the court demanding a rematch at a different venue. On Tuesday, the AIFF’s emergency committee, which met at the federation’s headquarters here, decided to accept the Punjab club’s demand.
“The committee firmly believes that football is apolitical and must continue to be a humane expression of conciliation and solidarity with everybody affected by terrorism. The best way to do that is by playing, albeit in a safe and secure environment, allowing the players to express themselves best,” the AIFF said in a statement after the meeting.
“With the current situation in Kashmir not conducive to conduct a match, and keeping in mind the current extraordinary situation as well as the desire of teams to play football on the field, the match stands rescheduled to be held after March 6, 2019, at a time and location feasible for AIFF, and the participating teams,” it added.
“The committee has deliberated on the recommendation of the league committee, and the provisions of the I-League regulations 2018-19, and also taken note of the situation prevailing in Kashmir since February 14.”
Welcoming the AIFF’s decision, Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj reiterated his stance that the current security situation in the Kashmir valley is not suitable for visiting teams.
“Minerva had always maintained their stance that security was the main concern regarding the team’s decision to not travel to Srinagar for the match against Real Kashmir. The club were not provided written security assurances from responsible departments despite repeated requests which led to their decision.
“Minerva had refused to forgo the three points and had filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court citing the same but Justice Vibhu Bakhru asked the club to wait for a verdict of the AIFF league committee’s meeting. The league committee then referred the matter to an emergency panel. The club’s stance has now been vindicated by the committee’s decision,” Bajaj said in a statement.
Hitting out at Football Sports Development Limited (FDSL), the body which runs the Indian Super League (ISL), Bajaj alleged that the controversy is the latest attempt to target his club.
“We are vindicated once again, first by the security forces asking AIFF not to conduct matches in Kashmir, then by (Real) Kashmir themselves requesting to move their game against East Bengal and now by the AIFF league committee and the emergency committee. The whole episode once again highlights the targeting of Minerva Punjab by the FSDL,” Bajaj asserted.