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I League 2017: Minerva Punjab FC to play eight matches without a sponsor

It will be for the first time in five years that any team from north India will feature in I League after JCT Punjab pulled out from the competition in 2011.

Minerva Punjab FC, Minerva football club, I League 2017, I League, Minerva sponsors, indian football, football news, sports news, indian express During the launch of team jersy at Football Stadium in Sector 17, Chandigarh, on Thursday. Kamleshwar Singh

For the last one month after the All India Football Federation inducted Chandigarh-based Minerva Punjab FC into the I League 2017 edition, the club officials have not only been busy in scouting talent for the club but also making efforts to find sponsors for the club. While the club has formed the senior team for the 10th edition of the I league with players from AIFF Youth Development programme and Indian junior teams, lack of sponsors has meant that the team will play eight of its matches without a sponsor.

 

“It is tough without getting any sponsors despite finishing second in the second division I League last season. But we wanted to put north India, especially Punjab, back on the national football scene. Hence we scouted junior and Indian players who wanted to represent the region in the I league. Whatever training sessions we had at Sector 17 Football Stadium, we had to pay for them and it has not dented our confidence,” said Ranjeet Bajaj, CEO and owner of the club and a former Indian junior player during the official team jersey launch on Thursday.

The 31-member Minerva Punjab FC senior team sees the presence of nine players from the AIFF Elite Academy and players like Germanpreet Singh from Dempo FC, Simranjeet Singh from Mohun Bagan, Manandeep Singh from Kerala Blasters too have joined the ranks. It will be for the first time in five years that any team from north India will feature in I League after JCT Punjab pulled out from the competition in 2011.

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“We had a short window to prepare but whatever talent we could scout, we went ahead. To compete against the likes of Bengaluru FC and Mohan Bagan, which competed in the AFC Cup will need a superlative effort from the team. Players like Manandeep Singh and Simranjeet have played for clubs like Kerala Blasters and Mohun Bagan and their presence will also help. More than 80 per cent of our players come from the AIFF Youth Development programme. Our foreign players Jovel Martins, Victor Amobi and Joel Sunday are expected to lead the goal scoring,” said Surinder Singh, head coach, Minerva Punjab FC, which will face Chennai City FC in New Delhi on January 8.

Thursday also saw the presence of former Minerva Punjab FC player Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. The 24-year-old, who now plays for the Norwegian club Stabaek FC, also shared his thoughts. “Most of the players are from the AIFF Junior programme and we played together. It is good for them to get an opportunity to represent a club based in Punjab. This will help them and competing against top teams in India will help their game,” said Sandhu.

The club has also roped in UEFA Pro Licence coach Juan Carlos apart from former Indian team technical director Colm Toal. “I am very happy to see the talent here in India, especially in this part of India. I have interacted with U-16 and U-19 players and they look promising to me. The talent here is unbelievable and we need to work hard the same way we do in Europe. It is a new start for the team in the I League and it will be challenging for the youngsters but it will also help them emerge as better players,” said Carlos.

First published on: 06-01-2017 at 04:07:00 am
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