Soon after the 2018-19 I-League match between hosts Real Kashmir and Minerva Punjab was cancelled following a no-show by the visitors, Real Kashmir officials lashed out at the Minerva Punjab management for politicizing the issue.
The crucial I-League match between Real Kashmir and Minerva Punjab did not take place as scheduled in Srinagar as the Punjab side did not turn up for the match citing security reasons in the aftermath of the Lethpora Pulwama militant attack on the CRPF personnel which claimed 44 lives. Soon after the incident on February 14, Minerva Punjab had expressed their reservation in travelling to Srinagar. However, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after consultation with the Jammu & Kashmir government and security establishments, refused to call off the match and gave it a green signal. Despite that, Minerva did not travel to Srinagar.
The AIFF Match Commissioner and referees on Monday, as per protocol, kept all things ready for the match. Host team Real Kashmir were in the ground, practising. The scheduled kick off time was 2 PM IST but the Match Commissioner waited till 3 PM IST. At that time, central referee informed the manager of Real Kashmir that match has been cancelled and he will submit his report to I-League disciplinary committee.
Soon after that Real Kashmir coach David Robertson and technical director Manzoor Dar addressed the press conference in which Dar lashed out at Minerva for politicizing the issue and dragging Real Kashmir players into it.
“Minerva Punjab FC and its owner Ranjit Bajaj are unnecessarily trying to politicize the issue and gain mileage out of it. To drag our players into the controversy was the worst thing that one could have hoped for. Our media cell will take up the matter with I-League officials in this regard," Dar said.
“AIFF officials arrived in Srinagar three days ago and they got assurances from both the administration and security establishment that the visiting team would be provided top-level security. It was after these assurances that AIFF gave the match a go-ahead as per schedule. An incident did happen, but things are normal in Srinagar and people over here and our fans were yearning to see us play. Despite announcing that match would not happen today, still a sizeable number of fans turned up,” Dar further said.
Real Kashmir Technical Director further said that Minerva feared that they may suffer a big defeat in Srinagar and then politicized the Pulwama incident for personal mileage.
“The way we have been playing, I think Minerva feared they might suffer three to four-goal defeat or even worse if they'd travelled to Srinagar. On their request, we had changed the date of the match from February 17 to 18. But they didn’t reciprocate same way when it mattered. They are trying to gain full mileage out of a situation for their personal benefits,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Scottish coach of Real Kashmir, David Robertson said that his players are hungry to go into the middle to play the match.
“It is a disappointment but we can’t do anything about it. My players are hungry for the game and they have not got one today. These are things about which we can’t do anything. We will keep doing what we have been doing the whole season. We take it one game at a time and now we are shifting focus to our next game,” Robertson said.
About the points that he expects from the cancelled game, he said, “We expect to get full points as we were here while they were not”.
On Real Kashmir FC's momentum getting affected due to the cancellation of recent games coach Robertson said, “It can go both ways, it can help or it can break. I know my players and it is not going to affect us that much. As I said we focus on one game at a time."