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Former I-League champs Minerva Punjab set for shutdown

April 7, 2019

NEW DELHI: IN a shocking turn of events, Ranjit Bajaj — owner of former I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC who are also one of the two Indian entrants to the 2019 AFC Cup — announced that he will be shutting down his club, on Friday.

“With a heavy heart, I have decided that Minerva Punjab FC will have to do what so many others have done. (We are going to) shut down,” Bajaj tweeted.

Bajaj has long been at loggerheads with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and his decision seems to have stemmed from his inability to tie down a stadium for his club’s upcoming AFC Cup home games. Minerva had held Chennaiyin FC to a 0-0 draw in their first game.

Bajaj had zeroed in on the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar — where the Super Cup is currently going on — as his club’s home ground in the AFC Cup. But things, it appears, did not work out according to plan. “We cannot change venue now as it’s too late and we will be disqualified from the AFC Cup.

All permissions were given well in advance. After being champions, playing in the AFC Cup was our right. Sadly came to know that it was the AIFF (& FSDL) who has got our permission cancelled. I am shattered that my own parent body is sabotaging our AFC (Cup) stadium.”

AFC regulations do state that any team will have to give a 30-day notice if they are to change their stadium during the competition. With Minerva’s first home game coming on May 1, this window has shut.

If Minerva fail to turn up in their remaining AFC Cup matches — Minerva are scheduled to play their second game away to Dhaka Abahani and their first home game of the tournament on May 1 — Bajaj will have to cough up a hefty fine. Regulations state that any team withdrawing after the commencement of the group stages will be fined at least $50,000 (nearly Rs 35 lakh).

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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