Minerva owner threatens to shut shop

Says he is ‘sick and tired of fighting the AIFF’

I-League team Minerva Punjab FC is considering shutting down, its owner Ranjit Bajaj told Sportstar on Friday.

Bajaj’s staggering remark comes a day after Minerva was told it would not be able to play its Asian Football Confederation (AFC)Cup group stage matches at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar owing to renovation work.

Minerva is drawn in Group E alongside Chennaiyin FC, Abahani Dhaka, and Manang Marshyangdi. Its scheduled first home game is against Manang Marshyangdi on May 1.

“I’m sick and tired of fighting with the AIFF (All India Football Federation). Instead of trying to help me, they keep sabotaging me. I was sued for (₹) 60 crores for an interview I gave last week, and now this. It is a blatant attempt to shut me out as a whistleblower and they have succeeded,” Bajaj said.

“I came into football for the love of the sport and to promote it. This is not what I wanted to be doing. Any other country would have made much of me, but they are victimising me here.”

Minerva was informed about the unavailability of the Kalinga Stadium in an email on Thursday night.

The Odisha government’s letter to Minerva states that the Kalinga Stadium is being considered as one of the likely venues for the 2020 FIFA under-17 women’s World Cup, and hence will undergo a renovation. Minerva is now planning on writing to the AFC for clarity.

No role

The AIFF’s AGS and Head of Competitions, Anil Kamat, said the Federation has no role in choosing the venue.

“Minerva had first chosen to play in Delhi, then decided to play in Ahmedabad and finally fixed Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium. All three venues were inspected and approved by the AFC. The Kalinga Stadium was not chosen by the AIFF, it was a direct deal between Minerva and the Odisha government,” he said.

“It is up to the club to decide where to play. There is a provision that they can play at an alternate venue, provided it has been approved by the AFC. Minerva can write to the AFC and it’s up to them to decide,” said Kamat.

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar hoped Minerva would not shut down. “The AIFF would be more than ready to help and support one of our clubs (find a new venue). Ranjit and Minerva’s contribution to Indian football has been massive, across age groups, and no one would want them to shut down,” he said.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 3:03:17 AM |

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