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'I don't care being killed': Ranjit Bajaj on laying bare fixing in Indian football

Asked why he took the risk of exposing the fixing saga in Indian football, Bajaj told The Bridge, 'Even if they kill me, I will fight because they got into my and my country's dream of playing in the World Cup'.

Ranjit Bajaj

Ranjit Bajaj is the owner of Minerva Academy and I-League club Delhi FC.


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 17 March 2024 5:42 AM GMT

Fixing is not an old phenomenon that has screwed up Indian football. What makes the matter delicate now is the persistence of a man who wants to fight the system that destroys Indian football.

Ranjit Bajaj, in a social media post, last month, chronologically revealed how an international syndicate, which has ownerships and shares in several Indian clubs across the spectrum, is exerting its influence to manipulate the results of matches in state and national leagues.

When he attempted to lay bare the corrupt practices in the Delhi League, shaken by the revelations, Football Delhi and AIFF convened an emergency meeting to address the menace of fixing. The outcome of such meetings remained unknown.

The Delhi League is a hotspot for all types of fixing, Bajaj exposed in a series of posts on X, backed by videos and screenshots. Since the league is not broadcast, fixing has been happening uninterrupted here under the nose of the football officials.

But who will bell the cat?

Bajaj does not kowtow to the system. His unwavering ability to take on the system and tell it the truth on its face, sometimes not in a very gentle way but in the style most people will not welcome, leads him into controversy often.

He owns the I-League side Delhi FC and Minerva Academy in Mohali. He dreams of seeing India play in the FIFA World Cup one day.

"But if the system is corrupted, what is the point of my initiative? One person cannot achieve a larger goal alone. If this is the situation of Indian football, forget about 2036 or 2047, we will never play in the World Cup or do well in the Asian Cup," Bajaj declaimed in an interview with The Bridge.

He has been vocal and precise in his social media postings, exposing the fixing saga in Indian football, and revealing approaches for collusion. Bajaj did the most unlikely thing by taking the matter into his own hands as Indian football does not have a corruption redressal mechanism in place.

These are not mere allegations. The evidence is available, but the action is zilch.

Bajaj did not sit back by only revealing the match-fixing saga of a local league in Delhi. He sensed a foul smell and traced the link and unearthed more stigmas around in Indian football and most importantly the people behind it. He would stun the fans with his bombastic allegations. "ISL and I-League matches are corrupt and fixed."

But how? Bajaj, whose Delhi FC won the Delhi League in 2021-22, would explain in his unswerving style. "It started in 2017-18 when I had made the allegations and nothing happened even though I had given screenshots, phone numbers, Facebook accounts, Instagram accounts, everything," he said of fixing in Indian football.

"The same thing happened in an I-League game when my team was playing, again it went unaddressed. Then last year in the second division it happened again as players were approached for both spots and match-fixing. This time, I complained to AFC, FIFA, and AIFF," he added.

Fixing has been rampant in Goan and Kolkata football too. But no strong mechanism has been put in place or players have been educated to tackle this malady.

Why fixing becomes rampant in Indian football

The lack of streaming and telecasting of lower-level leagues made fixing rampant as was evident in a video posted by Bajaj when a team scored an own goal after playing a couple of passes among themselves.

"Even though I smelled something fishy, obviously I could not prove anything because I was lacking evidence. But I can guarantee that fixing was happening. The only problem was that there was no telecast, that is the whole thing," stated Bajaj.

"90% of the matches in Delhi League are not being telecast. And those are the matches that are totally and blatantly being fixed. Now, these guys either forgot that they were being recorded or they do not just care," he explained.

Bajaj himself was offered to fix a match. The same owner who offered him to fix matches is also in “full control” of I-League club NEROCA FC, making suggestions that they might be controlling match results.

“Now the same guy who made me a direct offer to fix is Akash Das. He is in full control of NEROCA FC," said Bajaj. NEROCA FC is currently the bottom-placed team in the I-Legaue, the second division of Indian football.

Bajaj also alleged that this is the same person who runs Ahbab FC, Rangers, and Juba Sangha - the three Delhi League clubs. Hence, it is easy to fix matches, he alleged.

"Rangers SC was once facing relegation. That fellow offered me to fix the next day's match to help them save regelation. Thank God, I took a screenshot because after two days I saw those messages had been deleted now," said Bajaj.

Bajaj accused Wilson Raj Perumal, the notorious Singapore-based match-fixers, of orchestrating fixing in India following a player's claim. Incidentally, Perumal came under the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) scanner in 2022 for apparently investing in five I-League clubs.

Responding to the allegation, Perumal challenged Bajaj. "Mr. Bajaj, I think your allegations against me are unfounded. I challenge you to substantiate your allegations against me. I challenge you," he wrote on X.

Emphasising why players are vulnerable to fixing, Bajaj said, "Players are not earning anything. They earn around 20,000 or 30,000 rupees. So you can lure them and spot-fixing becomes easy. Also, they were forced to do so because they were afraid of losing employment. In contrast, in ISL, where players are earning crores of money, it is very difficult to lure them."

Conflict of interest

Bajaj is also livid about refereeing in Indian football as the lack of quality referees in India meant the same group of officials officiate matches across all levels, be it the state leagues, I-League or ISL.

"Spot-fixing does not influence the outcome of the match. But now so many penalties are being given, so many red cards are being given and no questions are being asked about that," he remarked.

"The same referees can keep screwing up...Despite poor records, they will keep getting matches at the highest level. There is no accountability, there is no transparency and there is no merit. The same referees who have been around for the last ten years are still there," alleged Bajaj.

"When state leagues are corrupt, then how can other leagues not be corrupt when the same people who are officiating matches in I-League, second division or other state leagues the next day or two days after that?" asked Bajaj.

"I do not understand how people think the ISL is safe when the entire ground floor is weak and full of termites, and they are eating you up from the inside," he elaborated.

"There are huge conflicts of interest which are happening all over and there is no one looking at it. It is like you are robbing banks but there is no punishment for that," said Bajaj.

Bajaj cited the example of cricket where the anti-corruption mechanism is strong, but in Indian football, no such thing exists.

"Football is the only sport, the return on investment is the same because odds are odds. Has anyone ever gone to jail in India for fixing a football match? Has there ever been a case registered against anyone? Has a federation banned any player for fixing matches? Has any club been banned for fixing matches? No. Fixing is rampant in Kolkata and Goa leagues, but none received punishment," lamented Bajaj.

"Last year in the Goa league, when the allegation of match-fixing came out, Churchill Brothers banned one of their players. But was only the player involved? A lot of people were involved in that. They should have gone to jail because they fixed matches. But nothing happened," alleged Bajaj.

"It is a criminal offence that you fix matches in state leagues in Manipur, Mumbai, and Goa or elsewhere. State leagues are the backbone of any country's football. This is the place from where a lot of players come," said Bajaj, adding, "Not all Indian states have a proper league. Punjab does not have one. So, cannot we stop fixing there too?"

'Prime witness'

Bajaj said the responsibility to address the menace lies with the state associations and AIFF.

"It's the job of the federation or the associations or the clubs which have been affected. I cannot file a complaint. It has to be the Football Delhi to take charge or any police officer who is interested in cleaning up football. The association is run by Anuj Gupta, who is the head of Sudeva Delhi FC," said Bajaj.

"I'm the prime witness," said Bajaj, adding, "Only the AIFF can solve this problem if they are very serious about it. Unfortunately, we don't have any mechanism in place. This is a shame."

Asked why mainstream media remained silent on fixing, Bajaj said, "If the national team does not deliver success, and the quality is poor, media tends to ignore that sport, and that is the plight for us. In Indian football, no media organisation so far has taken up the issue of corruption. Unless the media raises its voice, nobody will feel the urge to address this issue."

"I think the officials of the state associations or the AIFF have enough power as they have connections in the corridor of power. So, addressing the issue of corruption is about willingness. Finding details about the fixers is not difficult. I am not a criminal investigator still I googled and found a lot of details about them," added Bajaj.

Asked why he took the risk of exposing corruption when the entire football fraternity stayed mum, he said, "Nobody is speaking against it because everyone is getting benefitted from it, financially."

"I have made so many enemies because I revealed the names. The reason why I did it is because these people are getting in the way of my and my country's dream of playing in the World Cup. I do not care if I am making enemies anyway or if they kill me or I die because if I do not reach my dream, I'm dead as well," stated Bajaj.

Unless corruption is addressed at the bottom of Indian football, Bajaj said, "You keep living in a fool's world for trying to reach the World Cup."

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