Written by Nitin Sharma | Panchkula | Updated: October 31, 2018 5:49:51 am
Competing in the last two seasons of I-League, Minerva Punjab FC have always made a start with a draw in the league. This year also has seen the defending champions starting their campaign with a draw against Churchill Brothers in their opening match last week.
The Punjab outfit will face I-League debutants, Real Kashmir FC, in their second match this season at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex on Wednesday and the team is looking forward to play positively.
“Our main aim is to make a positive start in the match. It will be a test of character for all the players. The draw in the first game was not something we expected but we will take positives from the performance. We had started with drawn matches in the last two seasons and we managed a clean sheet against Churchill Brothers in the last match. We had some chances particularly in the second half and I am happy about the way the players responded after the first half. They kept up the pressure right till the end and that’s what we need more. We have seen Real Kashmir FC play in Jammu and Kashmir Super Cup and we know that all the teams will come hard at us this season. As a defending champion, we understand such challenges and the key will be more attacking play,” shared 36-year-old Paul Munster, technical director, Minerva Punjab FC.
While Minerva Punjab FC made their I-League debut in the 2016-2017 season finishing ninth in the standings, the Punjab outfit won their maiden I League title last year with 11 wins. On the other hand, Real Kashmir FC made their I-League second division debut in 2016 and won the I-League second division title in April earlier this year.
Real Kashmir’s unbeaten run in the league also saw six players from Jammu and Kashmir donning the club colours and the last two months saw the Srinagar-based team training in Germany apart from Mumbai.
“We understand that playing in I-League is a step up from playing in the second division. It has been five months since we won the second division and the players have been thinking about playing in the maiden match in the I-League since. It is a big test for us and meeting defending champions in the first match is always going to be difficult. We have got six foreign players with players like our captain Loveday Enyinnaya and Bazie Armand, who have played for Minerva Punjab FC. They know a thing or two about Minerva Punjab FC and it will surely help us. We have got some experienced players like Shahnawaz Bashir and Ifham Tarizq Mir and their presence will also help. 22-year-old Danish Farooq too showed his class in the I-League second division and the team has gained a lot from pre-season trip to Germany and the ten-day training in Mumbai last month,” said David Robertson, head coach, Real Kashmir FC.
Real Kashmir FC trains at the TRC Stadium in Srinagar and this season will see them play host. While the 30-member squad also sees the presence of six foreign players including Robertson’s son, Mason Robertson, the team also relies heavily on players like Shahnawaz Bashir and Danish Farooq. Robertson was also impressed with the way Minerva Punjab FC won the title last season and believes that Real Kashmir FC team too can achieve such a feat.
“The players now understand that this is professional football. Training at TRC Stadium meant that they could not get proper training time with slots granted to different teams. But then things like these help us too. A team like Minerva Punjab FC showed us last season that a team can win the title with limited resources and winning against some of the big clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers speaks about the talent. I believe it’s all about the team spirit and how the team-members compete as a team. That’s thing which saw when Minerva Punjab FC won the title last season. We also take a lot of inspiration from such kind of things,” shared the coach, who also played for Scotland