J&K Invitational Cup-2018: Real Kashmir FC, Minerva Punjab FC joint winners

The next few scheduled matches of the event also got affected as the organisers were forced to conduct two matches in a day.

The prevailing situation following the death of many civilians in Kulgam blast forced the organisers of Jammu and Kashmir Invitational Cup-2018 to cancel the final and declare the finalists – Real Kashmir FC and Minerva Punjab FC as joint winners.

The event that was jointly organised by J&K Football Association and J&K State Sports Council at a sanctioned cost of rupees 30 lakhs saw eight teams, Real Kashmir FC, Minerva Punjab, J&K Bank, Sudeva FC, Lone Star, SFA, Delhi United and Bengaluru FC B participating in it.

The final of the much hyped football event was scheduled to be played on Tuesday at Synthetic Turf TRC Ground between Real Kashmir and Minerva. However, the organisers were forced to cancel the final owing to prevailing volatile situation in Kashmir valley. Instead, the organisers viz J&K State Sports Council and J&K Football Association held prize distribution function at Gindun multi-sports complex, Rajbagh during which finalist teams were declared joint winners.

Secretary Youth Services and Sports, Sarmad Hafeez was the chief guest on the occasion. Dr Naseem Javaid Chowdhary, Secretary J&K State Sports Council, Zameer A. Thakur, President J&K Football Association and other officials of JKFA and Sports Council besides a large number of footballers were also present on the occasion. 

“Due to unavoidable circumstances, there was a change in original schedule which meant that Minerva Punjab could not play the final as per the revised schedule, as they were travelling back to Punjab,” said an official statement.

The tournament organizers faced many challenges from the kick-off. Originally scheduled to be held from October 17 to 23, the kick-off match between Real Kashmir FC and Delhi United couldn’t take place on the opening day. Instead, it was played on the morning of October 18 away from the glitter and public eye due to the strike call given by Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) following the Fateh Kadal gunfight in Old City of Srinagar. 

The next few scheduled matches of the event also got affected as the organisers were forced to conduct two matches in a day.

“From the very first day this event faced problems owing to prevalent situation in Kashmir valley. The official kick off match was played next morning while as other fixtures also got affected,” said an official.

Apart from facing problems due to prevalent situation, the organisers of the event also faced criticism for including teams like Lonestar Kashmir FC and State Football Academy (SFA) among the four home-based teams in the eight team event. They were criticised for ignoring top teams of the State like J&KSPDC, J&K Police and AG’s Office who are doing well in the current JKFA’s Premier Football league. 

The outcome of the matches played by Lonestar Kashmir FC and SFA gave voice to more criticism as both the teams were badly hammered by outside teams like Bengaluru FC-B team and Sudeva FC.

“Generally, host teams enjoying home advantage put up best shows in any home event. However, the results were opposite in case of J&K Invitational Cup, as organisers instead of given preference to merit gave preference to influence. SFA is owned by one of the organizers – J&K Sports Council, while as Lonestar Kashmir FC’s inclusion was based on its history, being an I-league (2nd division) club in the past. It is the present performance that matters and not the past. Had merit been given preference, the quality of football to watch from the quarterfinal stage would have been much better,” said a former footballer.   

Incidentally, while Lonestar Kashmir FC is tottering at bottom of the table and SFA held in the bottom-half of the table, JKSPDC FC & J&K Police FC are grappling with J&K Bank FC for the top position in the ongoing Premier Division League.