THE LAST one year has seen Mohali-based Minerva Punjab FC playing its home matches in I-League at the Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana. Come February and competitive football will once again return to the Tricity with Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Sector 3, Panchkula, playing host to the club for five I-League matches. While the now demolished Sector 17 Football Stadium in Chandigarh hosted U-18 I-League matches last year, it will be for the first time that a football stadium will host I League matches and play host to a home club. Minerva Punjab FC will play their first home game in Panchkula on February 7 when they face Shillong FC.
“For the last one year, we have been playing our home matches in Ludhiana. To play I-League matches in the Tricity is a huge thing for us and we are excited to get a chance to play at our true home in front of our home fans. We had been trying this for the last six months and all this have been made possible due to the Haryana government’s efforts to speed up work on the turf at the football stadium. The football pitch has been totally relaid to meet the I-League standards and the team is raring to give their best at the home ground,” said Minerva Punjab FC owner Ranjeet Bajaj.
Last year, Minerva became the first football team in five years from north India to play in the I-League and played all their home matches in Ludhiana without sponsors. This year, the team has attracted sponsors like Cleartrip and Apollo Tyres and it has put up a superb show lying at the top of the table with 22 points, including seven wins, one draw and a solitary loss.
“The team has been playing superbly and with seven wins in the tournament, it has gained momentum. We have signed foreign players like Bhutan’s Chencho Gyeltshen and he has scored four goals with four assists in nine matches for us. More than five foreign players, including Ghana’s William Opoku apart from goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar, who has kept a clean sheet in the last three matches, will play before home fans. We invite every fan to support us,” added Bajaj.