Al-Amna a huge signing, Chennai City will win I-League, says Minerva Punjab Owner Ranjit Bajaj
The defending champions may have lost track in the chase for the I-League title, but Minerva Punjab FC’s vision is not confined to the domestic league. The Punjab-based side is now looking at the AFC Champions League as the main target in the upcoming days. Syrian playmaker Mahmoud Al-Amna was roped in by the Punjab based side a few days ago to strengthen the midfield ahead of the remaining fixtures in the I-League.
Minerva Punjab FC’s owner Ranjit Bajaj informed Sportskeeda that the former East Bengal player has been signed looking into the bigger picture with AFC Champions League and AFC Cup duties in the near future. It was pretty clear that the team needed a player of his quality to rescue the team from this situation and also help them during the continental fixtures.
Expressing what the signing of Al Amna means to Minerva Punjab FC, he said, “It means the world to us. We have brought him looking ahead at the AFC Cup because we need to have an Asian quota in that tournament. Not only does he fill that pretty well, but he brings to the team what it lacked in one go. He is someone who can score when he gets the opportunities and he can create chances as well. He is also a good leader and can lead the Indian boys.”
Al-Amna is known for his playmaking abilities in the midfield, the crafty midfielder was injured after he featured in the 2018 Calcutta Football League for East Bengal. After he was released, the Punjab-based side secured his services.
It was due to his brilliance that Aizawl FC won the I-League back in 2016 under the supervision of Khalid Jamil. Although he is at the dusk of his career, the Syrian International still has the capacity to shatter the opponents’ defence on any particular day.
Minerva Punjab displayed a fairy tale outing in the previous season, claiming their maiden I-League title in the second year at the top flight. But injuries have plagued the camp in the ongoing season, they are now placed at the 7th position with 13 points from 12 games. Bajaj feels that injuries at the beginning of the league and lack of backups has been the root cause of their problems this season.
Regarding the matter, he said, “At first, we did not have all the players this year because of injuries. We did not have any strikers; we were waiting for one of our foreign recruits to get fit. By the time he was ready, 6-7 matches were over. When he started playing we found that he was not good enough. So we need to keep backups from the next time.”
Ranjit feels that this year, the I-League was expected to be tougher with all the teams spending heavy on foreign players while teams like Shillong Lajong and Indian Arrows have also given a promising fight with their all-Indian unit. “This year, the league has been tougher. Every team have strengthened their squads. Even Indian Arrows and Shillong Lajong looked as if they can defeat any team on a given day. The league is so close that looking at it any time, it could go to any other team,” said Bajaj.
In spite of a shaky start to the season and considering the current situation, he still feels that Minerva Punjab FC can make a top-four finish, although their title hopes are over. “We are aiming for a top-four finish and I can guarantee we are going to do that. But we are obviously not aiming for the title as the race is over and I can predict that Chennai City FC is going to win the league,” said the owner.
With three home matches lined up, the Paul Munster-coached side will hope for a turnaround. With bottom placed teams like Shillong Lajong FC and Aizawl FC visiting Punjab, their owner is hopeful of claiming all the points on offer, “We are aiming for three points in the next match. We are aiming to pick up twelve points in the next four matches. This is a good time for us to pick up all the points on offer,” said Bajaj. Minerva Punjab’s next match is against Gokulam FC at Panchkula on Saturday, January 19.