By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, Feb 17 (IANS) Minerva Punjab FC said on Sunday they are not ready to forfeit their I-League encounter against Real Kashmir FC in Srinagar and accused the All India Football Federation (AIFF) of double standards.
“Why should we forfeit the match? We want to play at a safe venue. Is it too much for us to ask that? Just tell us anywhere, anytime except there right now. It’s just too soon and too close to where everything has happened,” club director and co-owner Henna Bajaj told IANS over phone.
Alleging that the AIFF treats different clubs differently, Bajaj said the governing body postponed the East Bengal tie last week due to “few inches” of snow but are now not paying heed to a matter of serious concern.
“If they could cancel the East Bengal match last week, why can’t they cancel this match till such a time when it’s safer to play or move it to a neutral venue,” she said.
The match between defending champions Minerva and title contenders Real Kashmir was scheduled to take place on Monday (February 18).
Asked whether they would appeal if three points were deducted due to the team not travelling to Srinagar, Bajaj said: “They are trying to pass on routine arrangements as special arrangements. We are not for a no-show. We will appeal if Real Kashmir is given three points. We have never said we forfeited any match.”
The club in a statement on Saturday said foreign players have been advised by their respective embassies to not travel to Srinagar, which is 20 kms away from Pulwama where 49 CRPF troopers were killed in the suicide attack on Thursday.
Bajaj said the AIFF has only sent an email in which the match commissioner, who is in Srinagar, said everything is in order and that he has spoken to local authorities and the deputy superintendent of police.
“We have not got any kind of written assurances. I know the AIFF is going around and saying they have given the assurance. But all they have given is an email from the match commissioner sitting there, saying everything is fine on the ground and the deputy SP has said everything is okay.
“This is not a written assurance. A match, taking place at a venue where the worst terror attack has happened, should be cleared by the proper authorities. If not, the home ministry then maybe the Indian Army. Someone who can actually take charge of events so soon after the attacks,” Bajaj said.
When contacted, I-League Chief Executive Officer Sunando Dhar said they are still waiting for Minerva to turn up before the game and arrangements are in order to ensure their safety.
“We have made all arrangements and the match commissioner is there for 72 hours now. He has spoken to authorities concerned and got the green signal. We had asked for hotel and flight details from Minerva so that we can arrange for adequate security. We are yet to receive that,” Dhar told IANS.
It has been learnt that Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj had agreed to travel to Srinagar when the match commissioner spoke to both the teams but later could not make necessary arrangements at the last moment due to exorbitant flight fares.
Minerva haven’t done well this season, languishing in ninth place with just 14 points to show from 16 games. Real Kashmir, on the contrary, are in with a big chance to win the I-League on debut. They are placed second with 32 points from 16 matches.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])