The All India Football Federation have launched an inquiry into the Chennai City FC – Minerva Punjab championship decider after the match commissioner Balasubramanaiam raised concerns and indicated that the match was “not played in its true spirit.”
East Bengal and Chennai City FC were both in the title race on the final day of the season. For East Bengal to clinch it, they needed to win their game against Gokulam Kerala and hope Chennai City lost or drew against Minerva Punjab. As the two games reached their conclusion, East Bengal did win against Gokulam, but Chennai City came back from a goal behind to win against Minerva Punjab and clinch the I-League title.
Right after the final day games concluded, East Bengal skipper Lalrindika Ralte spoke about how Minerva Punjab substituted key foreign players at a crucial juncture in the game. This fueled allegations of match-fixing and a lot of abuse and ire was directed online towards Ranjit Bajaj (Owner, Minerva Punjab FC) by the East Bengal fans.
The match commissioner added further details to give context to the ‘not played in true spirit’ comment earlier.
Incidents evidently provide us proof at 56 minute the player taking the penalty, J No 19 (Pedro Manzi) of CCFC had shown him with his gesture, which side he is going to kick. The goal keeper dived the other way. J No 17 (Roland Bilala) of MPFC was being substituted at 53 min at that time the team was leading by a goal scored by him at 3 minute and it surprised the player himself since he was displaying good attacking football.
Jersey No 10 (Juan Quero) of MPFC was substituted at 76 minute on which he was also annoyed and shown annoyance when he came to his technical area, since he was displaying good attacking game. Sh Ranjit Bajaj, Team Manager throughout the game was very quite which is very opposite to his nature throughout the Championship.Balasubramanaiam, Match Commissioner, Chennai City FC vs Minerva Punjab FC, 9th March 2019.
At this point in time, the enquiry seems to undermine the effort Chennai City FC have put in the entire season to clinch the title and casts doubts on Ranjit Bajaj, owner, Minerva Punjab FC.
The allegations are pointed and unsavoury and it remains to be seen if it’s a campaign against Bajaj calling out AIFF repeatedly or if there is indeed some truth to the allegations.