MINERVA PUNJAB OWNER Ranjit Bajaj has once again been handed a hefty punishment for allegedly abusing a match official.
Last night, the AIFF Disciplinary Committee decided to hand Mr Bajaj a fine of Rs 10 lakh along with a 1 year ban on the allegation of shouting abuses at the referee during the U-18 Youth League match between Aizawl FC and Minerva Punjab FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong. He was present at the stands during the game.
To make matters more grave, he has been accused of making racist comments towards the referee Pynskhemhame Mawhthoh.
According to PTI, the AIFF Disciplinary Committee report says,
"The Committee holds Bajaj guilty of committing serious gross acts of infringements and imposes with sanction of suspension of 12 months... Bajaj acted like a criminal indulging in series of hooliganism, abusing the Match Officials in filthy languages, threatening them openly, making racist remarks against the Match Officials. Certainly, none of these can be equated with an educated Guardian of a Sports Club."
Sources tell TFG that Bajaj is alleged to have said that a referee from North-East India should not have been appointed for the MPFC vs Aizawl FC match.
These are serious charges, and it's the first time in India that a top division club owner has been punished for making racist remarks, let alone the owner of the reigning champions of India.
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told TFG that an official statement regarding the matter would be issued later on Monday.
Ranjit Bajaj himself, however, is denying the allegation, and he has a counter-allegation of his own regarding this.
Speaking to TFG, he said,
"You can call me anything but can't call me racist... ninety percent of my players are from North-East India, my coach is from North-East India, my best friends are from the North-East."
Bajaj said he believed this allegation may have stemmed from a different incident that took place a few days earlier,
"A few days ago there was an incident of theft at the dressing room during our game against SAG Football Academy. We didn't lose anything because we kept our valuables in a separate locker with the physio but some people from SAG lost mobile phones. They even filed an FIR about it. I had an argument about it with the Match Commissioner, and it became heated when he insinuated that somebody from Minerva Punjab might have been involved."
Bajaj's finger is pointed at Biswajit Mitra, who has served as the Match Commissioner in both the games in question.
About the punishment, he said,
"I'm going to appeal. I did not do this."
Bajaj's wife Henna Singh, who is also a senior official at Minerva Punjab, echoed the same sentiments in a tweet, alleging a conspiracy against the club.
When the powers that be can’t take the thought of @Minerva_AFC winning its fourth title this season and there are vested interests to disrupt the success of a small but compelling club which is shaking up their foundations, they find ingenious ways to put a spoke in your wheel
This is not the first time Bajaj has been accused of abusing a referee. Last year, he was handed an 8 match ban with a 7 lakh fine after a similar accusation of misconduct. Asked about that incident, he said,
"I had appealed against it but AIFF never heard the appeal. There is a matter pending in court about it."
With the AIFF Disciplinary Committee already pronouncing him guilty, the MPFC owner will be banned from attending any match during the I-League and all Youth Leagues unless he can overturn the decision in an appeal.
With Minerva Punjab achieving remarkable success this season due to winning the I-League, U-13 Youth League as well as the U-15 Youth League, this controversy muddies the picture in an otherwise exemplary effort from the MPFC players.