I-League 2018/19: Minerva Punjab bring on an extra foreigner, reduced to 10 men against Shillong Lajong
After an invigorating first half in the Shillong Lajong vs Minerva Punjab game, things got comical when the defending I-League champions made three substitutions prior to the second half kickoff and ended up fielding six foreigners instead of the allowed number of five.
The Match Commissioner intervened, forced Bajaj to bring out the sixth foreigner of the team off the pitch thus reducing the Punjab based side to 10-men for the whole of the second half.
What really happened?
Minerva Punjab were trailing 2-1 after Phrangki Buam and Allen Nongbri put the hosts ahead. William Opoku pulled one back at the cusp of half-time. Just as the second half was about to start, Paul Munster's side introduced the three following changes :
Akashdeep Singh (13) replaced by Bala Alhassan Dahir (6)
Deepak Devrani (26) replaced by Akash Sangwan (21)
Jagpreet Singh (23) replaced by Kouamme Kouassi (47)
Since Minerva Punjab already had four foreigners on the pitch right from the first half kick-off in Philip Njoku, Lancine Toure, Donatus Edafe and William Opoku, the above changes violated the rule of fielding a maximum of five foreigners on the pitch throughout the 90 minutes.
As a result, the Match Commissioner Mr. Gautam Kar intervened and rebuked Ranjit Bajaj and Paul Munster for violating the rules.
The visitors were forced to take out the sixth foreigner Bala Alhassan Dahir as a result and were forced to play with 10-men for the rest of the entirety of the second-half.
It seems either the coach struggles with his math or was just too focused on winning the game for his time given Minerva's recent dip in form.
The game ended 2-2 after Philip Njoku struck late in the second half to equalise and steal one point from Shillong Lajong.
As per the Hero I-League 2018-19 Rules and Regulations published by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Article 17 in Section 2 mentions the following :
Any club found guilty of fielding an ineligible player shall forfeit the match. Victory and the resultant three (3) points will be awarded to the opposing team as well as the score of 3-0, or greater, depending on the score of the match. The guilty team, its officials and players will have their medals and title stripped and if qualification has been made for the AFC Cup/Champions League playoffs, the qualification will be annulled. The guilty club, its officials and team officials shall also be subject to further fines and sanctions as determined by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee.
However, as the game went on as usual, it is highly unlikely the AIFF will go on to slap such a severe punishment on the Defending Champions given that the mess-up had almost all parties involved including the Match Commissioner and the Referees who allowed the illegal substitution to take place initially.