‘Minerva Punjab’s I-League title victory a fillip to football in North India’
Minerva Punjab beat Churchill Brothers 1-0 in Panchkula on Thursday to clinch the I-League title.football Updated: Mar 09, 2018 09:43 IST
JCT did it in inaugural NFL way back in 1996-97, Aizawl won the I-League last year. This season was Minerva’s turn to prove that you don’t need a big budget and star players to become champions. As the team, the only one from North India, clinched a hard-fought win over struggling Churchill Brothers it seems the club has tried to and succeeded in fulfilling the legacy of JCT which quit football after 2010-11 season.
Former national coach Sukhwinder Singh who coached JCT terms Minerva’s victory as historic and something which has the potential to give football in this region a huge fillip. “Earlier it was JCT and now Minerva have the potential to inspire budding players. That is what JCT were doing. We had a good academy and we produced players. This can easily be replicated by Minerva,” Sukhwinder said.
Club or no club, Punjab has still been able to produce steady talent like custodian Gurpreet Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan both playing in ISL and numerous other players in present and past.
But it was never easy for Minerva, while JCT had a backing of being a team of JCT Mills, Phagwara, Minerva started on a shoe string budget. “We had to take loans. But today’s win vindicates our point that a team can win with local talent. Our sponsor came in much later. It’s a team victory, everyone contributed,” Ranjit Bajaj, owner said.
Former India player Sanjeev Maria, who played for Mohun Bagan, said: “The win is superb for Punjab but the test starts now. Next year teams will be better prepared against them,” he said.
Punjab players like Sukhdeep, Akash Sangwan, Kamalpreet, Gagandeep Bali, Amandeep all played important role in the team’s success and Bajaj, who wasn’t sure how many players from this team will continue next season, but added that he will like to keep the core team of local players.