On 9th March, Chennai City FC were crowned the Champions of the 2018-’19 I-League, one of the top two football leagues in India.
The needed only a draw on the final matchday against Minerva Punjab FC, and the eventual win by a scoreline of 3-1 helped them secure the title.
Earlier, Chennai City surprisingly lost to Churchill Brothers on the penultimate matchday, and opened a chance for East Bengal to go for the title triumph. This was followed by the latter winning against Gokulam FC, after which Minerva Punjab took the lead against Chennai – putting a real dampener on Chennai’s hopes to win the league.
Minerva Punjab then conceded three goals in the second half, including one at injury time, to hand Chennai the win and the I-League title in what was a real photo-finish.
East Bengal captain Lalrindika Ralte questioned Minerva’s unusual decision to substitute their important players during a crucial juncture in their last game. In addition, match commissioner Balasubramaniam also raised concerns over the game “not played in its true spirit”.
“After thorough discussion and observation, self and RA appointed for the above subjected game in our opinion like to bring to your kind notice that the penultimate match played between CCFC and MPFC in Coimbatore on 9.3.2019 was not played in true spirit,” the match commissioner mentioned in his note to the authorities.
He further pointed out a few situations from the game, where he believed some malpractice may have happened. “Incidents evidently provide us proof at 56 minute the player taking the penalty, No.19 (Pedro Manzi) of CCFC had shown him with his gesture, which side he is going to kick. The goal keeper dived the other way. No.17 (Roland Bilala) of MPFC was being substituted at 53 min at that time the team was leading by a goal scored by him at 3 minute and it surprised the player himself since he was displaying good attacking football.”
“No 10 (Juan Quero) of MPFC was substituted at 76 minute on which he was also annoyed and shown annoyance when he came to his technical area, since he was displaying good attacking game. Ranjit Bajaj, Team Manager throughout the game was very quiet which is very opposite to his nature throughout the Championship,” the match commissioner added
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) immediately responded, ordering an inquiry into the last game of the 2018-’19 I-League over doubts of match-fixing.
“The AIFF is looking into the matter and the federation’s integrity officer has already got down to work. Though, in the match commissioner’s report to the federation, nothing suspicious was mentioned,” an AIFF official told Press Trust of India (PTI) on conditions of anonymity.
More details to follow soon.