Bengaluru FC has been asked by Maldives Sports Minister to leave the country citing breach of COVID-19 protocols, a charge which the club's owner admitted to be correct. Maldives Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof termed it as "unacceptable", a sentiment echoed by club owner Parth Jindal. Confirmining the news, BFC in a statement said, “Bengaluru FC would also like to place on record an unconditional apology for a health and safety breach, involving one member of staff and two players, in the Maldives, on Saturday.”
“The club has held the highest standard of safety and precaution throughout the pandemic, and this error in judgment in no way aligns or indicates otherwise stringent measures that the club has maintained over the course of the season,” the statement said, “The club is making arrangements to get all its players and staff home at the earliest. The club will be dealing with this matter internally and no further statement will be made.”
Meanwhile, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Sunday announced that the AFC Cup Group D matches in Maldives will be postponed. Bengaluru FC were scheduled to face local club Eagles FC in a playoff match after which the Group D matches were scheduled to start on May 14 with fellow Indian Super League (ISL) side ATK Mohun Bagan facing the winners of the playoff. AFC did not officially state the reason for the postponement.
Local media reported that BFC players, who had reached Maldives on Friday, were seen on the Male streets, which was not permitted as they were given special permission to be here despite the ban on tourists from India because of a COVID-19 surge there. Jindal apologised for the "inexcusable behaviour of three foreign players/staff" and promised strictest action against them.
"Unacceptable behavior from @bengalurufc breaching the strict guidelines from HPA (Health Protection Agency) & @theafcdotcom. The club should leave Flag of Maldives immediately as we can't entertain this act," Mahloof tweeted from his official handle.
"We have informed FAM that we cannot hold the match, and asked them to make arrangements for @bengalurufc's departure. We will be in further correspondence with AFC through @MaldivesFA to postpone the group stage."
As per a report by 'Adhadhu News', a local newspaper quoted by goal.com website, Maldives's Health Protection Agency (HPA) had given special permission for the play-off match between Eagles and Bengaluru FC.
One of the conditions was that the players and staff had to be confined to the hotel at all times except when going for training and the matches, it said.
Channel Nine Maldives also put up a photo of BFC's Australian import Erik Paartalu walking on a street in Male.