Barely hours before the tournament’s scheduled kick-off, the Super Cup was shrouded in uncertainty with Minerva Punjab FC giving the customary pre-match conference and meeting a miss, prompting the All India Football Federation to label it as “blatant disregard”.
A cloud of uncertainty hung over the fate of the tournament after eight I-League clubs on Tuesday pulled out citing unfair treatment by the AIFF.
“While representatives from three clubs – FC Pune City, Kerala Blasters FC and Indian Arrows – were present on both occasions, Minerva Punjab FC did not attend either despite being present in Bhubaneswar,” the AIFF said in a statement.
“This is extremely disappointing, and a blatant disregard for the federation,” the apex body added.
As per the schedule, former I-League champions Minerva Punjab are slated to play Indian Super League franchise FC Pune City on Friday, the opening day of the qualifiers.
In case Minerva Punjab stick to their decision to withdraw, the AIFF said the “rules and regulations of the tournament will be invoked”, and the matter forwarded to the relevant authority for further action and decision.
The Super Cup is scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar, with the qualifiers starting from March 15. The final is slated for April 13.
Minerva, along with seven other teams, had on Tuesday pointed out that the I-League clubs 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 competitions 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 I-League teams lock horns against the Indian Super League teams. It is India’s main club knockout tournament and Minerva was scheduled to play the qualifying round against FC Pune City on the March 15.
The club, though, did attend its practice sessions both on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.