Minerva Punjab FC Thursday heaved a sigh of relief after the Odisha government granted them permission to use Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium for their AFC Cup home match on May 1, and said they are "not shutting shop" for now. Minerva had earlier alleged that on the All India Football Federation's insistence, the Odisha government had withdrawn permission to use the stadium against Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal for the Group E match.
Club owner Ranjit Bajaj had requested Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to look into the matter. On Thursday, Bajaj said the Odisha government has informed him that his club can use the Kalinga Stadium for the May 1 match only. He will have to look for venues for the other two home matches on June 19 and 26.
"I have been informed through phone that I can use the Kalinga Stadium for the May 1 match. I am very happy and I want to profusely thank Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik ji and Sports Secretary and Director Sports for giving the permission," Bajaj told PTI. "We have two more matches on June 19 and 26. For these matches, we will not be able to use Kalinga Stadium so I have to find stadium for the two matches. I have more than two months and I hope to get the venues in this time," he added.
He said he has some venues in mind for these two matches -- Guwahati and Fatorda in Goa. "The stadiums will have to be AFC approved. So, I will approach Guwahati, Goa and others also. The fee for using the stadium will be a factor," he said.
Minerva's other two home games will be against Chennaiyin FC (June 19) and Abahani Limited Dhaka of Bangladesh (June 26). Asked about his earlier threat to shut down the club, he said, "I had said it in the aftermath of the non-availability of the venue of May 1 match. If I don't have a stadium to host the (May 1) match, my club would have been banned by the AFC for a period of three to five years.
"Then, a fine of USD 50,000 would have been imposed on us per match. That would have meant USD 3 lakh for the six group matches and 3-0 result against us in all these matches. So, what would I suppose to do if I have to pay this hefty fine and a then a ban of at least three years?" he asked. "I would not have any other way except shutting shop. But now, things have changed and as of now I can focus on the performance of the team for May 1 match." PTI PDS AH AH
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