The Owner and Executive Director of the club states that a dream has come true, looks forward to providing a platform for Punjabi players in the I-League..
Good news has finally graced India’s current domestic top tier, the I-League, with the addition of three teams into the fold. Of the three, two are first time participants in the competition – Minerva Punjab FC and Chennai City.
The All Indian Football Federation’s (AIFF) Bid Evaluation Committee met on Sunday and decided to welcome the Chandigarh-based club into the top flight after a couple of impressive seasons in the second division. This takes the overall participation in the league to 10 teams
For Minerva’s patron-in-chief Ranjit Bajaj, the news has him brimming with joy and anticipation. Goal caught up with Owner and Executive Director at Minerva Punjab FC for an exclusive interview, where he delved his ambition to recreate the success of a former I-League stalwart in Jagatjit Cotton and Textile (JCT) Football Club from Phagwara, while opining that he hoped to see his club win the league trophy, by “beating the big boys.”
“This is the happiest day of my life. It has been a dream come true not only for us but the entirity of North India in terms of sports. We hope to recreate what JCT did after they folded operations and why not aim much higher than them?,” an optimistic Bajaj expressed.
Bajaj underlined that mere participation in the league was not on his or his club’s mind.
“We are not here for participation certificates, that really doesn’t matter. What if it’s our first year? I want our team to go and beat those ‘big clubs’ at their home ground and make a mark. We want to win the I-League,” he stated, with bravado.
The son of bureaucrats B.R Bajaj and Rupan Deol Bajaj believes that the club has the facilities to offer an alternative route of life for the youth of Punjab to tackle the rampant problem of drug abuse in the state.
“Our academy is world-class and the stadium is AFC approved. What better facilities could you give a kid and what we want is to groom them and make them better individuals, not only sportsmen.
“Drug abuse is an issue amongst the youth in Punjab, if we inculcate sports in them, drugs and alcohol problems would stop gradually. Moreover football is a sport where you only need a ball unlike cricket where the equipment is costly,” opined a current Limca-record holder.
The ball is set to roll in the I-League in the first week of January 2017 and though that leaves a small time frame for Minerva to ready themselves for their biggest test yet, the club will be up for every challenge that is thrown their way, believes Bajaj.
“One might question as to how we will sort out all the necessary requirements with such less time in hand. We have the kit, sponsors, ticketing, logistics to take care of but you know that, we thrive on challenges,” he elucidated.
Bajaj concluded by revealing that the club wishes to give Punjab-born players operating elswhere in the I-League a chance to play for a club that represents their homeland.
“There are Punjabis in every I-League team but what they did not have is a platform in their own state and we want to be the ones who will provide it to them. We are in talks with a few players and within a week we shall have the basic roster complete. We have already started trials at our academy”
“We will want to emulate what my boys did in the inaugural U15 I-League. I want our club to provide the big names for the Indian national team for the 2022 World Cup,” he concluded.