MINERVA PUNJAB FC HAVE MADE a significant announcement: the club is about to enter a tie-up with Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach.
The partnership between the two clubs is expected to be at all levels of footballing activities, with a particular focus on grassroots and youth development.
Club owner Ranjit Bajaj, explaining the details of the tie-up to TFG, said the deal was going to be the first of its kind in Indian football,
"This is the first time a major foreign club is tying up with an Indian club with no strings attached."
Bajaj said that the deal would see the famed Gladbach youth development system invest its resources to develop talent in India with a long term approach,
"They said we want to work with you for the sole reason of your youth development. Not because you're the champions of India... we expect some players from India to do some big things in world football in the near future. They apparently know about the fact that we are on the threshold of breaking into the top 70 of FIFA rankings, which opens the doors for Indian players to obtain visas for playing in some of the major European leagues."
He also stressed that this tie-up was not going to be a proxy marketing campaign for the German club,
"They are looking at the possibility of having an Indian player playing for them. Other than that they're just looking for a tie-up. They will send their coaches over here to help us out, both at the junior and senior level. They also want to take the best kids from our club over there for courses and 3-4 month training programmes that they have been setting up."
Asked what convinced him to agree to this project, Bajaj said,
"This has been 8 months in the making... these guys are here for the right reasons. They're not here for making money or for selling their shirts... a lot of clubs keep on writing asking for tie-ups. We reply to everyone saying we don't want to tie up with any club that wants to sell shirts and make their presence felt in India. Usually no one writes back after that. But this club wrote back saying that's exactly what we don't want to do. We don't want to sell our shirts or make a profit from this, we want to make a real effort and make a difference."
The deal will be made official on 2nd February at a press event in New Delhi, and go into effect immediately. Bajaj signed off saying,
"You'll see the first exchanges happening at the beginning of next year."
Minerva Punjab have begun 2019 on a strong note, with their debut in the Asian stage due on 12th February against Iranian club Saipa at the preliminary round 2 of the AFC Champions League. Their youth academy has had significant success in recent years, including contributing players to the India's U-17 World Cup squad, and this tie-up with a Bundesliga club that is known worldwide for its own effective youth development system looks set to bolster their efforts.