The Indian football fraternity woke up to a rude shock on Thursday morning as Ranjit Bajaj, the owner of I-League club Minerva Punjab FC revealed that two of his players were approached by bookies to fix matches of the ongoing I-League tournament.
Bajaj chose not to mention the inside information but the matter has been reported to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
"2 of my players came to me with screenshots of match fixing offers of 30 lakhs/I reported it to Aiff integrity officer & also AFC thru their integrity app/really hope these unscrupulous elements are not successful in getting thru2other players and match officials [sic]", wrote Ranjit on Twitter.
2 of my players came to me with screenshots of match fixing offers of 30 lakhs/I reported it to Aiff integrity officer&also AFC thru their integrity app/really hope these unscrupulous elements are not successful in getting thru2other players and match officials @ILeagueOfficial pic.twitter.com/Hs28ljflvb— Ranjit Bajaj (@THE_RanjitBajaj) January 17, 2018
"We need to be ultra careful now /the cats out of the bag / it has arrived in our country /the curse of horrible people trying to ruin our beautiful game with the immediate lure of easy big money / really hope NO MATCH OFFICIALS or PLAYERS fall in this trap [sic]."
An Indian and a foreign player from the football team were approached.
Ranjit is being hailed by Indian football fans on social media for not wasting any time in brooding over the situation and quickly complain about it to the authorities.
Expect a strict action to be taken against the culprits in the case if found guilty. Brilliant from @THE_RanjitBajaj , he could've easily let it slide and concentrate on the challenging for the league title but he chose to fight instead. Kudos. @fni https://t.co/EJBHuyKJcZ— Aditya Warty (@adityawarty) January 18, 2018
"See, if somebody like Sony Norde is offered 30 lakhs, he will refuse it. But somebody who makes that same amount in ten seasons, and maybe this is his last season, and maybe his father and mother [are] dying of cancer... whatever reason!" Ranjit spoke to The Fan Garage.
"And you don't know what kind of foreigners you are bringing in... there are cases where someone who was working as a carpenter in Nigeria comes here and plays as a striker, you know that... and imagine the match officials, they get 10,000 bucks a month. Forget players, it's so much easier to get to the match officials! For them it's not even a career... I don't even know what to do, bro."
The AIFF integrity officer Javed Siraj has also spoken on the incident.
"We have been conducting regular educative and awareness workshops with the various clubs and even various age-group national teams on a regular basis," Siraj said.
"This time, too, prior to the kick-off of the Hero I-League, we met majority of the clubs making them aware as what needs to be done in case of any crisis. We always pay emphasis on the three Rs -- recognise, reject and report. Our aim is to protect the players and the officials and protect from the malice of manipulation."
"All the matches of Hero I-League and Hero ISL as well important matches of other tournaments are being monitored by Sportradar, London which has been sending us regular reports," he added.
Minerva Punjab FC are currently at the top of the I-League table following nine matches. They have lost just once and won a seven times, picking up a total of 22 points so far.