Super Cup Match Called Off After Minerva FC Don’t Take Field
The country's premier knock-out football tournament, Super Cup, was on Friday thrown into jeopardy after Minerva Punjab did not turn up for the first match of the qualification round, prompting the national federation to describe it as a "crazy" and "unacceptable" move.
Former I-League champions Minerva did not take the field on Friday against Indian Super League side Pune City FC. The Punjab side had also skipped the mandatory pre-match press conference on Thursday.
However, Friday's second qualification round match between ISL side Kerala Blasters and I-League club Indian Arrows, a developmental team of All India Football Federation (AIFF), took place at the Kalinga Stadium.
The situation is set to get worsen on Saturday as I-League sides Gokulam Kerala and Aizawl FC said they will not play their respective qualification round matches against Delhi Dynamos and Chennaiyin FC.
Gokulam and Aizawl did not turn up for pre-match press conference on Friday.
Aizawl FC said that they will not play against ISL side Chennaiyin FC on Saturday.
A cloud of uncertainty had already hung over tournament after eight I-League clubs decided to pull out, citing unfair treatment by the AIFF.
But interestingly, three of the eight protesting clubs -- Minerva, Gokulam and Aizawl -- which were to play in the qualification round (on March 15 and 16) had come Bhubaneswar with their teams.
The winning team of the four qualification round matches qualifies for the main tournament.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said Minerva's decision to boycott the match would harm the game in the country.
"I would encourage the clubs to compete in the tournament for the sake of football in the country," he added.
Das, however, appeared to be leaving some room for a rapprochement between the AIFF and the clubs.
Asked if action will be taken against Minerva or any other team which does not turn up for the Super Cup, Das said,
He also did not give a direct reply when asked if Minerva will be declared to have forfeited the match against Pune City FC.
"Whatever is provided under the tournament (Super Cup) rules will be applied," he said.
An AIFF source said that the match commissioner is yet to decide on the status of the Minerva vs Pune City game, whether it's "cancelled or called off." The eight clubs had pointed out that the I-League teams are being neglected in all aspects by the country's football federation.
The clubs said it had written a letter to the AIFF in February regarding multiple concerns such as the future of the league but they are "yet to hear back" from the federation.
Minerva also highlighted how the AIFF has "not provided any financial assistance to the participating teams" despite having a title sponsor for the event. With no AFC berth also on offer, the club felt the competition lacked any incentive for the teams.
The Super Cup is a knockout tournament hosted by the AIFF where top six teams each from the I-League and ISL gets a direct qualification to the main round while the lower-ranked four sides from both the leagues play in the qualification round.
The main round will be held between March 29 and April 13.