Ranjit Bajaj: 'No deep pockets, but we created champions'

"People thought that you need endless pockets to get into football, but we have proved that you can develop players, from your own locality and make them champions," Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj said after the team's title triumph.

Players of Minerva Punjab FC celebrate after sealing the I-League title in Panchkula on Thursday.   -  PTI

If Aizawl FC's I-League title triumph last season was a remarkable achievement, Minerva Punjab FC took the underdog tag to a whole new level when it became the first team from North India to clinch the title on Thursday.  From fielding a largely inexperienced squad to battling match-fixing allegations, and brushing aside the likes of heavy-weights such as East Bengal and Mohun Bagan to the title, it has been an extraordinary season for the Chandigarh-based team.  

“The season was an absolute roller-coaster. If Aizawl's win was an underdog story, then our story should be made into a Bollywood movie!” Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj told Sportstar  today.

READ: Minerva clinches I-League title

“Hopefully, this has brought Punjab back to the football map and we can start producing more players from here,” he said.

The newly-crowned champion's squad featured a large majority of players from its youth academy and despite a lack of experience at this level, the boys fought valiantly to claim the title.

“Earlier, people believed that junior academies could do well only at the junior level. But now, with this win, that perception has changed. We have proven that you can make it big if you have a proper structure, ” Bajaj said. 

ALSO READ: 'Minerva’s rise was necessary for Punjab football’

“We have shown that development is possible. People thought that you need endless pockets to get into football,  but we have proved that you can develop players, from your own locality and make them champions,” he remarked.

Never aimed to lift title

When quizzed on whether he had set a target to win the league, head coach Khogen Singh refuted the idea with laughs. “No, no. We never thought about winning the league,” he said.

READ: How ‘dead man therapy’ sparked Minerva to life

“Our target was to finish in the top four. However, after a string of wins, the boys believed they could win and that led us here.

"I kept telling them to believe in themselves. I told them it didn't matter if it was East Bengal or Mohun Bagan, all they had to do was execute our tactics and play together as one unit.”  

Aizawl inspired win

Sachin Badadhe, the side's assistant coach, said the boys took inspiration from Aizawl's feat last season. “We had a video session before the game where we showed the team that it's not only about the money or about great players, it's also about the underdog teams that achieve success. We showed them the video of Aizawl winning the trophy and that had really motivated the players,” he revealed. 

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