New Delhi: There is no end to Minerva Punjab FC’s problems with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), club owner Ranjit Bajaj alleged that his team has been wrongly stopped from playing in the ongoing under-13 I-League because of over-age players.
The Chandigarh-based club is considered to be running one of the best youth development programmes in the country in recent years.
Last season, Minerva bagged titles in the under-13, under-15 and under-18 I-League tournaments. They also won the senior I-League crown in 2017-18. The club is known for being involved in running battles with the AIFF on several issues.
Bajaj said: “A host of my boys in the under-13 squad have been declared over-age by the national federation. I am currently in no position to field the team.”
Bajaj said it was done despite the fact that he submitted the correct age certificates of the boys. “Apart from submitting original age certificates, we also placed on record the copies of the boys’ passports. As far as my knowledge goes, a passport is considered a person’s biggest identity proof in India,” Bajaj said.
An AIFF official said it was wrong to assume that the federation has taken a vindictive stand against the Punjab outfit. “The players’ age is being verified by our bone age determination programme, which is TW3. The programme is headed by Vece Paes, the Chairman of the federation’s Medical Committee.
“Each participating side in the under-13 I-League was allowed to register 40 players. Teams having at least 18 eligible players each as per age verification would be allowed to participate. The federation officials have nothing to do with it. This process is also being used by the Indian cricket board,” the official said.
Minerva were in the news last month after they refused to play an I-League match against Real Kashmir FC in Srinagar immediately after the Pulwama terror attack. The fate of the match still hangs in balance and could be decided in the league committee meeting on April 13.