The game was scheduled to take place on Monday in Srinagar.
The match was scheduled for 18th February and it seems Minerva Punjab’s requests for either postponing or shifting the game to a neutral venue have not been heard. The Warriors are yet to reach Srinagar for the game and according to an electronic communication between co-owner Henna Singh and an AIFF official, the defending champions are set to forfeit the game, citing safety issues and also to pay homage to the CRPF jawans who wjere martyred on 14th February.
However, AIFF CEO Sunando Dhar said that the local authorities in Srinagar have given a green signal for the match to be held at the TRC Ground. He further claimed that all the arrangements for the players and officials have been made.
“Our officials are already in Srinagar in preparation of the match. I have spoken to the match commissioner and he told me that the situation in Srinagar is currently normal. The local administration has also assured full security to the players, officials and all those related to the match,” Dhar told PTI on Saturday.
“We have been assured that the whole security bandobast of players’ transport from the airport to the team hotel and for travelling from the team hotel to the ground and return on matchday will be provided. So, we have decided to go ahead with the match,” he added.
However, Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj claims that the precautions taken by the federation are routine and he would not want to take this risk and hence they are looking to forfeit the match. Minerva Punjab have submitted a letter to the AIFF putting forward their concern for their foreign players, who have already received travel advisories from their respective embassies asking them not to travel to Srinagar till further notice.
“As you know we had asked for written assurance and permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs which we still haven’t got from your or home team’s end,” a communication between Minerva Punjab co-owner Henna Singh and an AIFF official read.
“The arrangements you have suggested are the routine arrangements made for all visiting teams. Considering the extraordinary circumstances following the Pulwama attack just 20kms from Srinagar Airport, the Ministry of Home Affairs need to approve the football match being held. If the CRPF convoys are not safe, then we are very soft targets for such attacks” the communication further read.
Minerva Punjab want the fixture to be delayed by at least a fortnight, as everything settles down in the Valley, or they want the match to take place at a neutral venue.
“We urged the AIFF to delay the match for at least a fortnight till the situation in the Valley is settled. Alternatively, we are ready to play in Delhi, Chandigarh or any other neutral venue.”
To add to this Bajaj had asked the AIFF to give him a security assurance from the local authorities that his players will be safe in Srinagar. “They could not give it. The AIFF wants to portray that the situation in Srinagar is normal, but it is not normal there,” Bajaj told Scroll.
If Minerva forfeit the fixture, the Snow Leopards will go up to 35 points from 17 matches in the I-League this season.