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Exclusive: Secure or not? Minerva Punjab, Real Kashmir in war of words over Srinagar match

first_imgIt’s all been chaotic for Real Kashmir FC and Minerva Punjab FC ever since the Pulwama terror attack shook India. The attack that took the lives of 40 CRPF personnel affected a football match too that was supposed to take place in Srinagar. On February 18, there were supposed to footballing chants and banners and celebrations but in the end, there was silence – one that spoke only of chaos.All the chaos started because Minerva Punjab said they will not travel to Srinagar unless they get written assurance from any official security agency. Neither AIFF nor Real Kashmir could provide them with a written assurance. In a series of mails to AIFF, which are in possession of IndiaToday.in, Minerva asked for written security assurance from AIFF but to no avail.Ranjit Bajaj was adamant that he could not risk the lives of their players and could not have taken the responsibility in such turbulent times in Srinagar. On Monday at the TRC Turf Ground in Srinagar, Real Kashmir warmed up for the match but Minerva Punjab did not turn up.”We have only one thing, we have nothing against Real Kashmir to be honest. We just want that match to be shifted to a neutral venue or even if they want to have it in Srinagar, wait for sometime, let the situation calm down and then we are okay with travelling. They said it was safe to play but before the match only, there was an encounter going on one hour from Srinagar airport. So many were injured, the mastermind of the Pulwama attack was killed. This happened one hour away from Srinagar airport and it happened yesterday and the match is supposed to take place then.advertisement”Play to heal and all is great but you tell me what am I supposed to tell my 17-year-old boy, whose mother is calling me and saying ‘please don’t send my boy there, please don’t take him to the match’. Then what am I supposed to tell my foreign players whose embassies have strictly told them not to go there. How am I supposed to force them? What am I to say, that the match commissioner has said everything is okay? Is the match commissioner going to certify our security? We said please get any security agency certify our security. They have not been able to give us one written assurance,” Bajaj stated to IndiaToday.in.Bajaj picked up the point that Real Kashmir vs East Bengal was postponed to February 28 from February 10 due to snow and he could not understand while their match could not have been postponed after such a massive attack.”East Bengal’s game was postponed for 20 days because of three inches of snow. If three inches of snow makes it dangerous to play football there, then I think a bomb blast that has killed 40 people and then the next day killed five more people, makes it more difficult than three inches of snow. I don’t understand the logic that for snow, it can be postponed but for the worst terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir in 20 years, it can’t be moved. They have to understand I am responsible for each and every member of my team. If God forbid something happens to them, I have to answer to their parents. Telling me to go on verbal assurance of match commissioner is very unfair. We are not saying we don’t want to play, make us play anywhere anytime except Srinagar right now. I don’t know what the problem is.”We have been talking to I-League CEO and AIFF but they just don’t seem to understand. It’s so ironic that they are saying go and play in Srinagar but they are not willing to go there. The right thing to show that place is safe would have been if AIFF top brass, all descend in Srinagar and say everything is perfect. Themselves, they are sitting in Delhi and sending some match commissioner for the report.”Real Kashmir owner Chattoo, however, said that Bajaj had got the dates of the match changed earlier as well and that if he talks about the Indian Army, he should have had faith in them and should have come for the match.”This is very unfortunate. To be very honest, this is more than just unfortunate especially for us because we are in title hunt. We didn’t want any distractions, we play fair. 10 home games for everybody, every state has some problem so no club should use anything as an excuse for not playing anywhere. Whatever happened in Srinagar, all of us condemn it. Condemnation is no word but we are a football club, we are not a political party that we preach to anyone about these things,” Chattoo said.advertisement”Mr Bajaj got the date changed first, that nobody is aware of. He gave a lame excuse that tickets are not available for Srinagar and requested AIFF. We didn’t want a change in date because we do a lot of preparations for our games. We have a completely 100 per cent professional setup, we don’t deviate from our planning. Anyway when AIFF requested us, we said not an issue at all, they changed the date as per their convenience. In between this very unfortunate and horrific incident took place. But this is a game of football and has nothing to do with that incident.”In September Minerva was here for a friendly match, there was a complete shutdown, they could not even play and they went away. He had no problem at that time but this time, 60 kms away a very unfortunate incident has taken place and he is using that as an excuse that we can’t play because of this and because of that and because on my jersey, it is written Indian Army. On their jersey if it is written that they salute the Indian soldiers, they should have faith in the same Indian soldiers the way we have,” Chattoo complained.Chattoo further said that while Bajaj is talking around travel advisories from foreign embassies to players, he fails to realise that Real Kashmir have foreigners too and they all have no issue with the state in Srinagar.”Then he comes out with travel adversories from various embassies. The gentleman doesn’t realise, we have a Scottish coach, his son Mason Robertson he is playing with us. We have one from Ivory Coast, we have a player from Zimbabwe, we have a player from Ghana, we have six players from over the world and in addition to that, we have players from all over this country. It is the same.”Had the situation been so bad, we would have requested AIFF, ‘please we cannot hold the game here’, because we are responsible people. As the home team, the responsibility lies on us. We spoke to Mr. Ranjit Bajaj and told him that ‘your security is our problem’. Every team that has come here, you please ask them and verify how they have been treated. From the airport, they are escorted to their hotel and they are armed escorts even though they are not required. The hotel where they stay is 24 hours guarded, they come in a guarded convoy to the stadium. What else does he want? Is he different from others?” Chattoo questioned.The case is now in the Delhi High Court as Minerva have made the move against the All India Football Federation (AIFF). While AIFF released a statement on Monday after the match timings as they are contemplating further action against Minerva for their no-show, Ranjit Bajaj had already taken the case to the court.advertisement”We moved the court in the morning yesterday [Monday]. Till day before yesterday night, I was thinking that the AIFF guys will actually come up with something, we didn’t know they were going to say that ‘no you just have to play’ because the things that were happening, being shown on TV, people being shot every second, who will go for a match.”This is all AIFF’s way of turning things around. It was so bizarre that AIFF is tagging me in official tweet saying that ‘thank you you are coming for the match and Minerva Punjab is coming there’. One second later, Real Kashmir tweeted the same thing as if we had said to them that we are coming, making it look to the public that we have given a nod and then we are saying no. From the very first minute, we have been writing to them. we have written six letters and every letter said ‘we are not coming unless you give security assurances’.”AIFF don’t just write back. We haven’t got the match commissioner report and they have only submitted it. AIFF Committee has FSDL and Reliance in it so that is exactly what us 8 I-League clubs don’t want happening because they are controlling I-League. Right now I feel AIFF won’t be bothered about the committee but what the court says because we have gone to the High Court and if I know AIFF, they will wait for that decision,” Bajaj said.Real Kashmir, on the other hand, firmly believe that they deserve the three points from the match since Minerva did not show-up for the match and by rule book, that equals to forfeiting. In fact, Chattoo went ahead and said that Minerva are scared of playing Real Kashmir in Srinagar because of the team’s form.”Mr Ranjit Bajaj did not want to play us in front of our home crowd because here 25,000 supporters come out and they support their team vociferously. We defeated Minerva as the champions in their home ground and that was our first match, we were raw then, we have become more professional and more ruthless now. We are undefeated 12 games, we are at number 2.”So, if the gentleman doesn’t want to play, let him not spoil the name of the game. Why politicise, it’s not fair for anyone. Our three points are hung in between, how do you think our coach and the boys are feeling. But it has to go on. Our coach gave one and half hour lecture that it doesn’t matter, everybody is asking what about our three points. We are telling them, even if it has to be a rematch, we will make them lose 6-0 now. It’s unfair, we are also tired playing matches, almost at the fag end, the team is doing well. we don’t even make changes in the team, we stick with our family, it is a family to us,” Chattoo remarked.He further stated the turn of events from their end and explained their conversations with AIFF, claiming that even they have lost a lot of money after Minerva did not come for the match despite their arrangements.”Day before yesterday, we were told by AIFF that the tickets are booked for Minerva. We thought they will reach by day before yesterday and all security arrangements, clearances were there. Their armoured vehicle, their buses, everything was in place. When they didn’t turn up by the last flight then we felt that they are not coming.”We asked AIFF, now what are we supposed to do? They said may be they will come by morning. We said it doesn’t matter if they come, we will go to the field all ready to play they come or not. If they come we play them, if they don’t we need those three points, why not. What’s wrong in that? We went to the field and practiced. The match commissioner and the referees have been here for six days, they reported to AIFF that everything is perfectly alright then why does Mr Ranjit think that things are not alright here? Chattoo further raised questions.”Yesterday he reported that there is a shutdown, we tweeted live pictures and video of the stadium, outside the stadium, everywhere. All this is not going to help anything. We have nothing personal against him but the way he has behaved, it’s not fair. And going to the court for what? He should have gone to the court before the match so we would have known that he’s not coming. You know the kind of expenditure we have to make for hosting a game? It’s very unfortunate what he is doing. We defeated Chennai twice, their home and our home – the undefeated Chennai. That is the motivation our team has. That is who we are. Please don’t ruin all that, going to the court and all. We can also claim the damages but is it going to help the sport, no.”Minerva’s no-show has raised further issues for Real Kashmir as their final home game against East Bengal draws closer. East Bengal have also asked AIFF for a change in venue or date. They have also said that they won’t forfeit the match and will go to Srinagar if ‘forced’ by AIFF.However, Real Kashmir want to host East Bengal on February 28 amicably and even requested them to come for the match from their official handle and assured them security.”We sent an official tweet to East Bengal, requesting them to come here, giving them personal guarantee. I own a hotel in Srinagar, which is the headquarters of our club. We have said ‘you stay in our hotel with us’. What more can we do? Shamim and I ready to give in writing that your security is our personal responsibility’. We also have six foreigners here, we have 14 Indians here. You think if there would have been an iota of unrest in our surrounding, had our coach David Robertson been staying here, his embassy wouldn’t have pulled him out?”Also Read | Real Kashmir reveal reason for not tweeting on Pulwama. Very convenient, says Ranjit BajajAlso Read | We appeal AIFF to postpone Feb 28 Srinagar match but will go if ‘forced’ to: East BengalAlso Read | Minerva’s petition at Delhi High Court likely to come up for hearing on Friday: LawyerAlso Read | Bengaluru FC ready to play in Srinagar. Let’s do this, say Real KashmirAlso Read | Real Kashmir to East Bengal: Dear friends, come and play in Srinagar. Guarantee your safetyAlso Watch:last_img read more

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