Pulwama terror strike: 'Minerva 'no' to I-League game in J&K

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NEW DELHI: The upcoming Hero I-League game on 18 February between debutants Real Kashmir FC and defending champions Minerva Punjab is unlikely to be held in Srinagar following terrorist attacks in the Pulwama district that claimed the lives of more than 40 CRPF personnel, Press Trust of India reports.

Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj has formally written to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) requesting that either the venue of the game must be shifted or the game must be held at another date. If neither is a possibility, the team will not participate in the match.

"We have written to the AIFF requesting them to shift the game from Srinagar. My team jersey has the line written 'We Salute Indian Army'. A game of football is nothing compared to what has happened last evening," Bajaj told PTI.

"We are willing to forfeit the game if it is not moved out. I am sure the people will stand by us and really three points don't matter under the circumstances."

The club also has mentioned about the same in an official statement which reads: "We wear a tribute to the Indian Armed Forces on our match jerseys. Needless to say, we stand in support with our Armed Forces, and cannot play a football match, where 42 of our brothers have been martyred.

"Additionally there is the security threat which will be faced by us when if we do travel for our match. Who will guarantee our safety? Ideally, there should be written assurances and permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs that the region is safe enough to conduct the match as scheduled and that our safety can be guaranteed.

"Considering the extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances we hereby request you to please defer the I-League fixture against Real Kashmir till such time our safety is guaranteed by the authorities or have it held at a neutral venue."

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said that it is reliant on the feedback it receives from local authorities in Srinagar for the staging of the match at present.

"We will see what the local authorities have to say. We will go ahead with the match if the local authorities give us a positive feedback. As of now, it is on, and shifting remains the last resort," Dhar told the newswire.

It is also a possibility that Quess East Bengal FC, which is scheduled to play an away match against Real Kashmir on 28 February, could also express similar concerns as Minerva Punjab.