The All India Football Federation on Tuesday launched an inquiry into the final-day I-League Championship decider between Chennai City and Minerva, after an expression of suspicion by the match commissioner.
Leaders Chennai City’s shocking loss to Churchill Brothers had handed East Bengal a shot at the title going into their last round matches. On the final day of the 2018-’19 I-league, a draw or a defeat for Chennai City against Minerva Punjab and a victory for East Bengal would have crowned the Kolkata heavyweights champions.
While East Bengal did manage to win, Minerva lost 3-1 after taking the lead, immediately prompting the red & gold outfit’s skipper Lalrindika Ralte to question the Minerva Punjab’s decision to substitute their foreign recruits at what was a crucial juncture of the game.
“The AIFF is looking into the matter and the federation’s integrity officer has already got down to work. Though, in the match commissioner’s report to the federation, nothing suspicious was mentioned,” said a federation official.
However, in another note, match commissioner Balasubramaniam raised doubts about the game being “not played in true spirit”.
“After thorough discussion and observation, self and RA appointed for the above subjected game in our opinion like to bring to your kind notice that the penultimate match played between CCFC and MPFC in Coimbatore on 9.3.2019 was not played in true spirit,” the match commissioner mentioned in his note.
He added, “Incidents evidently provide us proof at 56 minutes the player taking the penalty, Jersey No 19 (Pedro Manzi) of CCFC had shown him with his gesture, which side he is going to kick. The goalkeeper dived the other way. Jersey No 17 (Roland Bilala) of MPFC was being substituted at 53 min at that time the team was leading by a goal scored by him at three minutes and it surprised the player himself since he was displaying good attacking football.
“Jersey No 10 (Juan Quero) of MPFC was substituted at 76 minute on which he was also annoyed and shown annoyance when he came to his technical area, since he was displaying good attacking game. Ranjit Bajaj, team manager throughout the game was very quite which is very opposite to his nature throughout the Championship,” the match commissioner said in his letter.
Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj though rubbished the claims, saying they played the game in the right spirit and with an intention to win.