I-League 2017-18: Minerva Punjab FC players offered 'huge money' by bookies for match fixing

Indian football was rocked by allegations of match-fixing after Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjit Bajaj claimed that two of his players had been approached by bookies with offers of Rs 30 lakh to fix matches in the I-League.

File image of Minerva Punjab players. I League

File image of Minerva Punjab players. I League

While Bajaj refused to name the players who were approached, he said one player (an international) was approached via Facebook on Wednesday evening, while an Indian footballer had got offered money on a phone call on Tuesday.

Bajaj added that his players had immediately reported the advances to him, and he, in turn, approached the All India Football Federation (AIFF) integrity officer to report the development. Bajaj, whose Minerva are currently on top of the I-League with 22 points from nine matches, also reported the fixing offers on Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) integrity app and was planning on filing an FIR on Thursday evening.

"I'm really shocked. We need to wake up to this menace which is knocking on the doorsteps of Indian football," Bajaj told Firstpost on Thursday. "Bookies have realised that Indian footballers are easily accessible as opposed to cricketers who are perpetually under high scrutiny. The unscrupulous elements have realised that they can make the same amount of money by fixing football matches as a cricket match without any of the risk they run in booking a cricket match.

"The kind of money on offer is huge. Some players may not even make the money after playing a few seasons of the I-League. Here, they can make it in one match. Even the match officials could be approached by such people. It's a really bad situation," he said.

It is learnt that currently, the AIFF rules only prohibit outsiders from accessing the dressing room during matches. However, after that, there are very few restrictions on who the players can meet and socialise with. The AIFF integrity officer also has a meeting with players of each team before the start of the season to tell them about how to recognise unscrupulous advances and how they can report them to AIFF.

AIFF are yet to make a statement on the issue, but Bajaj said he was certain that the national football federation will come out "all guns blazing" to combat the menace and weed out the problem before it can harm the reputation of Indian football

Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 15:09 PM

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