Minerva Punjab to play first AFC Cup home game at Kalinga Stadium

The Odisha government has given permission to I-League team Minerva Punjab FC to play its first AFC Cup home game against Manang Marshyangdi at Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium on May 1.

HERO Super Cup 2019

Minerva Punjab FC will play its first AFC Cup home match against Nepalese club Manang Marshyangdi at the Kalinga Stadium on May 1.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

I-League club Minerva Punjab FC has got permission to play its first AFC Cup home match in Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium on May 1, club owner Ranjit Bajaj confirmed to Sportstar on Thursday.

This ends days of disquiet stemming from the football club being told it could not play in the stadium. Last week, the Odisha government informed Minerva that it won't be able to provide the Kalinga Stadium for its AFC Cup matches as it was due to undergo renovation work ahead of the upcoming 2020 FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup.

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Bajaj met with Odisha director of sports and youth services Vineel Krishna and commissioner-cum-secretary of sports Vishal Kumar on Thursday. After talks, the state gave the club the go-ahead to play its first home game, against Nepalese club Manang Marshyangdi, at the Kalinga Stadium.

"I explained the situation to them and informed them that we can change our stadium only 30 days prior to the game. They understood the situation and have awarded us permission to host our first game at the Kalinga Stadium," said Bajaj.

"I am grateful to the Odisha government for understanding our plight and immediately coming up with a solution," he added.

Minerva now has the task of finding a venue for its next two home games, which are scheduled to be held on June 19 and 26 against Chennaiyin FC and Abahani Dhaka, respectively. The club has sent applications to four stadiums — Goa's Bambolim Stadium, Pune's Balewadi Stadium, Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium and Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.

Minerva will have to finalise its home stadium for its second and third home games 30 days from June 19, i.e. by May 20.

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