Not having venue to host AFC Cup match, Minerva Punjab contemplates exit

Bajaj lashed out at AIFF for getting the permission to use the stadium cancelled

ranjit-bajaj-minerva-punjab-file (File) Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj

Minerva Punjab owner Ranjt Bajaj on Friday said he was contemplating "shutting" down his club as he could not find a venue to host the I-League side's AFC Cup home match on May 1.

Minerva is scheduled to play against Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal in a Group E match on May 1 and Bajaj claimed that the Odisha government has withdrawn its earlier permission to allow to use Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar under pressure from All India Football Federation.

The AIFF, however, rejected the allegation, saying that it has nothing to do with the issue as the stadium is owned by the Odisha government.

Bajaj said that the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier given clearance to use the stadium for the match.

"Yes, we are thinking of shutting the club. What is the point of playing in a country where the national federation is trying to sabotage the clubs. Even after getting permission from the Odisha Chief Minister Mr Naveen Patnaik, who has retweeted my old post, the AIFF denied us permission," Bajaj said.

He claimed that the AIFF had refused to give the ground, citing renovation work ahead of next year's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.

"They say they will have to do some painting and other small work," he added.

In a series of tweets, Bajaj lashed out at the AIFF for getting the permission to use the stadium cancelled.

"After being champions playing in the @AFCCup was our right @minervapunjabfc but came to know who that it's AIFF &(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," Bajaj wrote.

"Sadly it's 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 odsiha govt to cancel the stadium booking after @AFCCup has started Is shameful.

"AIFF & FSDL RELIANCE Congratulations on a job well done - from everyone @minervapunjabfc & all clubs who have shut down because of you."

He appealed to the Odisha chief minister for his intervention and save his club from disqualification by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Reacting to Bajaj's claims, an AIFF official said, "The stadium is not owned by the AIFF, it is the property of the Odisha government. So, we have nothing to do on this issue."