Shillong, Feb 16: Football clubs honoured the 40 dead in one of the worst militant attacks of modern times in Kashmir, but Thursday’s Pulwama suicide bombing has also cast a shadow over home matches of Real Kashmir, which are played in Srinagar, just a little way up the road from the site of the attack.

Real Kashmir are set to host defending champions Minerva Punjab on Monday. Newbies Kashmir are challenging for the title, while Minerva are in a battle to avoid relegation, but the threat of the drop did not feature in owner Ranjit Bajaj’s thoughts, as he said his club are willing to forfeit the match if it is not rescheduled.

Minerva has requested the All India Football Federation to move the match to a different venue or postpone it, it was reported in an Indian Express article.

Safety for players and staff isn’t the only reason that Minerva don’t want to play in Srinagar right now. Minerva have also taken the attack personally. Minerva’s academy has trained aspiring soldiers for decades and the club said in a statement, “we stand in support with our Armed Forces, and cannot play a football match where 42 of our brothers have been martyred.”

The AIFF, however, wants to go ahead with the game at the scheduled venue and date, though I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said they will consider feedback from local authorities in Srinagar before taking a final call.

The game against Minerva was to be Real Kashmir’s penultimate home fixture, with the 28th February match versus East Bengal to be their final one in front of their enthusiastic home fans.

Meanwhile, Minerva and other clubs have been paying tribute to the dead and injured CRPF paramilitaries on social media.

From the North East, the I-League’s Shillong Lajong and Aizawl FC and Indian Super League’s NorthEast United expressed their condolences to the families of those who were killed. Aizawl also announced that there will be a one minute’s silence prior to their match against Mohun Bagan today.

(TSR file photo)

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