By Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay,
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: A Club from the state of five rivers is back once again in the flagship Tournament of Indian Football – the I-League. Even as new entrants Minerva Punjab FC get ready for their debut season, www.i-league.org caught up with owner Mr. Ranjit Bajaj to have an understanding of their plans for the season.
In our first of the two series exclusive interview, Mr. Bajaj spoke at length about the sentiment of Punjab Football the roadmap, the obstacles and much more. EXCERPTS:
Minerva Punjab FC has brought back Punjab in the I-League once again. Does that put extra pressure on your team?
Football lovers of Punjab now have a team to get behind and they are excited! Our social media accounts have been flooded with posts and messages from fans sending us their good wishes, valuable advice and high hopes. Expectations are high and fans have been telling us — “Don’t fizzle out. Be professional like European clubs. Make Punjab Proud.”
We have quite a few Punjabi players in the team and it is special for them to finally be able to play for a club from their home state. More than the pressure to perform it’s all about your inner self asking you to make their state proud.
You made your debut in the second division league last season. Can you educate us about the background of your Club?
To be honest, if someone told me a year ago that Minerva will be playing in the I-league this season, I would never have believed it. our debut year last season, we finished runners-up in the 2nd Division League, were crowned All India Champions of the AIFF U-15 Youth League and also contributed some players from our Youth Development Program to the U-17 World Cup Team.
We finally feel like we are making a difference and contributing towards the development of football in Punjab and India as a whole. And when you are rewarded with such love and support from fans, you want to do more. We are so honoured by the faith that AIFF has put in us by granting us the I-league spot and we will not disappoint.
The support from the stands in Ludhiana when JCT played wasn’t much. What measures are you going to take to fill up the galleries?
It is true that JCT struggled to fill up the stadium during their last few years in the league but there was a time when football was the people’s sport in Punjab. In the 70s and 80s, great clubs like Leader’s Club and Punjab Police enjoyed the great home support and those are the days we aim to revive.
We will be doing rigorous promotions through radio, online and on-ground campaigns to let the people know about the matches and get them to the stadium. We also have a few surprise acts lined up for the season to draw more crowds into the stadium. It won’t be just a football match, rather it will be a festive atmosphere.
(The second part of this exclusive interview would be published tomorrow, December 20, 2016).