Ranjit Bajaj with Minerva graduates and India U-17 squad members Jeakson Singh, Anwar Ali, Shahjahan and Nongdamba Naorem.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has suspended Ranjit Bajaj, the notorious owner of I-League champions Minerva Punjab, for 12 months and slapped him with a fine of Rs 10 lakh for passing racial comments on the match officials during his side’s under-18 Youth League match against Aizawl FC in Shillong on Saturday. During the suspension period, Bajaj will not be allowed inside any stadium or be a part of any football-related activity which will be held under the aegis of the AIFF. Minerva have termed the punishment as ‘harsh and disproportionate’ and said they will appeal the decision.
According to sources, Bajaj allegedly called referee Pynskhemhame Mawthoh, from Shillong, ch***i eyes during the playoff tie, which ended in a 1-1 draw. The decision was taken by AIFF’s disciplinary committee, which was acting on a report filed by match commissioner Biswajit Mitra. The reports by referee and fourth officials were also taken into consideration while imposing sanctions on Bajaj.
In a statement, Minerva have refuted the claims and called the sanctions a ‘coordinated effort to point him (Bajaj) out to be an unruly person just to cover up their own failure in upholding the standards of the game.’
However, match commissioner Mitra accused Bajaj of acting like a criminal as he hurled racial abuses. “Bajaj acted like a criminal indulging in series of hooliganism, abusing the Match Officials in filthy language, threatening them openly, making racist remarks against the Match Officials. Certainly, none of these can be equated with an educated Guardian of a Sports Club,” Mitra noted in his report, according to Press Trust of India.
The issue was immediately brought to the notice of the AIFF’s disciplinary committee, headed by lawyer Ushanath Banerjee, and notified Bajaj about the suspension on Sunday.
“The AIFF Disciplinary Committee after examining the evidences placed on record before it, found the concerned senior official of Minerva Punjab Football Club guilty of committing serious gross acts of infringements and imposed a sanction of suspension for a period of twelve months… and further banned the official under Article 23 of the AIFF Disciplinary Code with regards to any tournaments held, organised by or under the aegis of AIFF, during the period of suspension,” the AIFF said in a statement.
The AIFF added that past instances of Bajaj’s misbehavior too were taken into account while deciding the quantum of punishment. According to the federation, this is the fourth instance in a span of one year that Bajaj has misbehaved with match officials. “The Committee, in its decision categorically stressed upon the seriousness and rising degree of the continued infringements and culpabilities of the guilty official including the giving of severe threats to the match officials as well as using clear racist remarks against them,” the AIFF statement added. Minerva, however, have called the match commissioner’s report ‘false’. “Mr Bajaj had questioned the MC (match commissioner) the match regarding the mismanagement and lack of security at the league venues, where a theft of Rs 1 lakh took place from one of dressing rooms on previous match day, even an FIR was filed, this irked the MC which led to his false report,” the club said.
The AIFF have stood by their decision. “The theft has nothing to do with Minerva and this incident as it doesn’t even concern the club. The club’s owner has time and again indulged in such activities so we had to take a stern action,” an AIFF official said.