New Delhi: Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj, on Friday announced the closure of his I-League club after he was denied permission to host the team's home matches of the AFC Cup in Bhubaneswar.
Holding the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its marketing partners responsible for the sudden withdrawal of permission by the Odisha Sports Authority to host the home matches for the Chandigarh-based club at the Kalinga Stadium, Bajaj said he had no option but to shut down the club.
"With a heavy heart today I have decided that @minervapunjabfc will have to do what so many others have done/champions of @leagueofficial for 2018-19 for seniors/under 13/under 15/under 18 - six titles (4 years) 60 plus boys to various Indian teams is going to shut," Bajaj said in one of the tweets. He was, however, not available for comment.
Speaking to IANS, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said his department was yet to hear anything from Minerva Punjab. "We have seen the tweets, but they have not written to us officially," he said.
Bajaj claimed the permission to host matches in Bhubaneswar was denied at the insistence of the AIFF and its marketing partners since his club was at loggerheads with the authorities."
"After being champions playing in the @AFCCup was our right @minervapunjabfc but came to know who that it's AIFF and (FSDL) who has got our permission cancelled - ODISHA sports dept is saying talk to them - I am shattered that my own parent body is sabotaging our AFC stadium."
"Sadly it is crystal clear that instead of trying to promote football in INDIA/AIFF along with FSDL Reliance is trying to kill all football which they can't own/this low blow of getting Odisha govt to cancel the stadium booking after @AFC Cup has started is shameful," said other tweets from Bajaj.
Minerva Punjab, despite their impressive on-field showing in the last couple of years, are involved in running battles with the federation on several issues. Recently, the Punjab side, were part of the seven I-League clubs who boycotted the Super Cup demanding a meeting with AIFF president Praful Patel to discuss the future roadmap of Indian football.