Minerva FC pulls out of Super Cup
Minerva Punjab FC, which was slated to take on FC Pune City in the first qualifier of the Super Cup, has pulled out of the competition a day prior to the game.
Ranjit Bajaj, Minerva Punjab owner, confirmed to Sportstar his team’s decision and said: “We didn’t attend the match coordination meeting and the official pre-match press conference. We will be returning home tomorrow.”
The All India Football Federation (AIFF), which has come under attack from most of the I-League clubs for its apparent lackadaisical approach to the League, expressed its disappointment and said in a statement: “this is extremely disappointing, and a blatant disregard for the Federation. In case of Minerva Punjab FC not taking the field tomorrow (March 15, 2019) in the opening match of the Qualifiers of the Hero Super Cup against FC Pune City slated to kick-off at 5 p.m. at the Kalinga Stadium, the rules and regulations of the tournament will be invoked, and the matter forwarded to the relevant authority for further action and decision.”
Bajaj, too, however, quoted the rule book and said: “The AIFF cannot sanction us. We withdrew before the commencement of the competition.”
Article 10.2 of the AIFF’s Regulations for the Super Cup 2019 states that “Clubs that withdraw prior to the start of the competition maybe replaced by another team as decided by the AIFF”, while Article 10.4 says that a club can be penalised — pay compensation, disqualified from next edition of the competition — if it withdraws from a competition after its commencement.
The matter now is expected to be referred by the Federation’s disciplinary committee.
Seven I-League clubs, including Minerva Punjab, had earlier threatened to boycott the Super Cup that pits I-League clubs against their ISL counterparts after the AIFF failed to respond to their mails seeking an appointment to meet president, Praful Patel.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das had replied on Wednesday that the Federation “will communicate with you (later) regarding the meeting since the President is travelling.”
Most I-League clubs, however, want the Federation to confirm a meeting date before they agree to play the Super Cup.
Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC, also slated to play the qualifiers on Saturday, are in Bhubaneswar but are unlikely to take the field unless the AIFF relents.
In the second qualifier of Friday, AIFF’s development team Indian Arrows will take on Kerala Blasters.