Minerva accuses East Bengal of poaching players

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar confirmed on Saturday about receiving the complaint and said it would be writing to East Bengal seeking an explanation.

Minerva Punjab FC players celebrating after winning the I-League 2017-18.   -  AIFF

Minerva FC may be ruling Indian football on the field for the moment but off it, the club seems to be a controversy magnet. The latest involves the reported signing of five players from the club by Kolkata powerhouse East Bengal, a claim that Minerva has disputed and sought action against.

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar confirmed on Saturday it had received the complaint and said it would be writing to East Bengal seeking an explanation. “The letter should go out in a day or two and once we receive a reply from East Bengal, and depending on it, we can refer the matter to the appropriate committee,” Dhar said.

East Bengal had last week announced its list of 28 players for the coming season, including five Minerva players — Sukhdev Singh, Gagandeep Bali, Kassim Aidara, Dipak Debrani and Rakshit Dagar — a claim Minerva disputed, saying only goalkeeper Dagar was released and the others remain contracted to it.

Interestingly, following the dispute, East Bengal’s official website now lists 31 players in its senior squad for the coming season — but the five do not figure in it.

“I haven’t received any information on our complaint against East Bengal. This is in fact against FIFA terms and rules of contract, they cannot even approach the player directly without informing the club,” Ranjit Bajaj, the Minerva owner said.

This is the third complaint Minerva FC has filed with the AIFF regarding poaching and improper approach for match-fixing this season, and the second against East Bengal. It had complained of fixing attempts reported by two of its players back in January, a charge currently being investigated by the CBI.


“The CBI is investigating the matter. Our own integrity officer (Javed Siraj) has also been working on the issue, there has been questioning of people concerned and ground work has been done. Hopefully there will be a resolution soon,” Dhar said.

Bajaj, though, claimed that the CBI had not even spoken to him yet.

Minerva also gave a written complaint against EB for approaching its players and coaching staff on the eve of the season finale that saw Minerva lift the title with a 1-0 win against Churchill Brothers. That complaint too, Dhar said, was being looking into by Siraj.

Minerva is not only the reigning I-League champion. It has also won the U-15 Youth I-League for three consecutive seasons, is in the semifinals of the U-13 League and unbeaten on top of its group in the U-18 League.

There are numerous complaints against Minerva as well, under investigation with the Player Status Committee, mainly over charges of age fraud, non-payment of players salaries and intimidation. Bajaj, though refuted all non-payment charges.

“All our players and coaching staff have been paid. We had even announced special bonuses for all players from the prize money, depending on the amount of time they have played, and that has also been paid. Even those who haven’t played any match have got one month’s salary as bonus,” he said.