I-League 2018-19: Real Kashmir v Minerva Punjab match rescheduled
Real Kashmir were set to host Minerva Punjab on February 18 just 4 days after a terror attack in Pulwama, close to Srinagar, left more than 40 CRPF soldiers dead. Minerva Punjab did not turn up in Srinagar for the match fearing for the safety of their players even as Real Kashmir expressed disappointment over Minerva's no-show.
Usually, in the case of a forfeit, the team that showed up is given 3 points and a 3-0 win. However, before the I-League could grant 3 points to Real Kashmir, Minerva approached the Delhi High Court and said they are ready to play in a safe venue. The Delhi HC asked Minerva to approach the AIFF League Committee over the matter.
Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj said his foreigners were advised against travelling to Srinagar when there was turmoil in the Valley and sought security assurances from the Ministry of Home Affairs and AIFF for playing in Srinagar. He did not receive any and decided against travelling to Jammu and Kashmir for the match.
Even the Real Kashmir v East Bengal title-deciding match was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi on February 28 so there was no way that the AIFF could punish Minerva for not showing up.
The matter was initially referred to the AIFF League Committee but it put the onus on the AIFF Emergency Committee, which delivered the verdict on Tuesday, March 5.
"The Committee has deliberated on the recommendation of the League Committee, and the provisions of the Hero I-League Regulations 2018-19, and also taken note of the situation prevailing in Kashmir since February 14, 2019," the AIFF said in a statement.
"The Committee firmly believes that football is apolitical and must continue to be a humane expression of conciliation and solidarity with everybody affected by terrorism. The best way to do that is by playing, albeit in a safe and secure environment, allowing the players to express themselves best.
"With the current situation in Kashmir not conducive to conduct a match, and keeping in mind the current extraordinary situation as well as the desire of teams to play football on the field, the match stands rescheduled to be held after March 6, 2019, at a time and location feasible for AIFF, and the participating teams."
The match could be held after the I-League final match-day on March 9. In the final match-day, Minerva Punjab travel to Coimbatore to face table-toppers Chennai City FC. If Chennai City win the match, they will be crowned the champions.
On the same day, Real Kashmir travel to Imphal to take on NEROCA.
The rescheduled match will be held before the Super Cup qualifiers begin on March 15. Given that players need ample amount of rest before a match, this I-League match could be held after March 11 in all probability.