Was threatened and not paid my salary — Former Punjab FC goalkeeper Nidhin Lal
The on-going issues with Punjab FC meant Lal missed out on a chance to fetch a new team in the summer. But the experienced player is believed to be a transfer target of multiple clubs in the country with the transfer window opening in January.
Former Minerva Punjab FC goalkeeper Nidhin Lal has accused his former club of not paying eight months' salary. The Kerala-born goalkeeper, who has played previously for Mumbai FC, Chennaiyin FC and Shillong Lajong, said the clubs owners threatened to beat him up for demanding his salary, while speaking at a press conference in Goa on Friday.
"The club management did not give me salary for eight months," said Lal to the journalists who had assembled. "One day, the owner Ranjit Bajaj called me to his office where he and his staff threatened to beat me up," he added.
Lal also showed Whatsapp conversations with Bajaj in which the owner intimidated his player by vowing to "destroy" his career for speaking out against the club's mistreatment.
"Despite going through such mental stress, I performed well in my last three matches for the club. Therefore, I had garnered some interest from a club in Kerala for the 2019-20 season," said Lal.
Despite complaining to the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Lal is yet to receive his NOC (No Objection Certificate) which would allow him to pursue his career elsewhere. "It has been seven months since I approached the AIFF with my problems. All I get is failed promises," he said at the press conference.
The on-going issues with Punjab FC meant Lal missed out on a chance to fetch a new club in the summer. But the experienced player is believed to be a transfer target of multiple clubs in the country with the transfer window opening in January.
The club, however, have categorically denied the allegations.
"The claims made by the player are totally false and fabricated. They are an attempt by the player to undermine his contractual obligations and to breach his contract without having to face any consequences," said a representative of the club.
Punjab FC also told Asiaville that despite repeated attempts by the club to remedy Lal's situation, he has refused to co-operate.
"He (Nidhin Lal) hasn’t even appeared before the player status committee. Player never approached the club for any grievances regarding salary or any other allegations which he is making now, instead just vanished midseason causing severe damages to the club right before our AFC cup debut, the club forced to field relatively inexperienced U-18 keeper in AFC cup," said the club.
The club have sent the player a cease and desist notice for "spreading defamatory, false and malicious rumours regarding Punjab FC Football Club".
This is not the first time Punjab FC have been embroiled in controversies. There have been multiple accusations of age-fraud activities in their junior teams. The Chandigarh-based football club has arguably been the most successful team in the junior leagues in recent years and have won all the major trophies in the Under-13, Under-15 and Under-18 categories. The team from Punjab also won the I-League 2017-18 campaign.
In the summer of 2019, there was a change in the ownership with the RoundGlass Group buying fifty per cent of the stakes and renaming the club from Minerva Punjab FC to Punjab FC.