I-League match to be held in Srinagar as scheduled, says CEO Dhar
New Delhi, Feb. 16 (IANS): The I-League encounter between Real Kashmir and Minerva Punjab will be held in Srinagar as scheduled on February 18, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar confirmed this on Saturday.
As a fallout from the terror attack in Pulwama, Minerva Punjab had appealed to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to change the venue of the match, owing to security concerns.
Minerva Punjab FC were even ready to forfeit the match rather than play in Srinagar, they said. But the national football governing body wants the match to be played as scheduled.
In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, football club Minerva Punjab on Friday refused to play their I-League match against Real Kashmir FC in Srinagar on Monday.
I-League defending champions Minerva requested AIFF to shift their match to another venue, preferably Delhi, in the wake of the deadly attack on Thursday that left 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers dead till Friday.
“Match officials and referees have already arrived in Srinagar, hence there is no question of shifting the match. We have taken the decision after consulting the police administration in Srinagar,” Dhar said.
Dhar also said that Minerva Punjab had been given the necessary assurances regarding their security after talking to the police administration in Srinagar.
As far as the East Bengal versus Real Kashmir match is concerned, Dhar said the match is scheduled for February 28, and there is ample time. By that time the situation will be quite under control.
“The East Bengal match is scheduled for February 28 and we have ample time at our disposal. Therefore that match too will be played as scheduled,” the I-League CEO said.
However, Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj asserted that his team will not play in Srinagar under any circumstances.
“You tell me, will it be right for us to play there after what has happened? We won’t disrespect our martyrs by playing there at a time when such a dastardly terrorist attack place. Secondly, there is the issue of security. We can’t compromise our players’ security by going there at this time,” Bajaj told IANS.
“We will prefer to give away the three points rather than playing there,” he added.
Hitting out at Dhar’s decision to continue with the match in Srinagar as scheduled, Bajaj reiterated that Minerva are ready to play the match in any venue other than Srinagar.
“If the officials insist that we should play there at this time, will it be correct and impartial on their part? All I am saying is that we are ready to play anywhere in India, but not in Srinagar,” he said.