Bengaluru FC is set to play its Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup match against TC Sports Club on Tuesday in Maldives, despite the prevailing unrest in the island nation. TC Sports Club is from Male city in Maldives.
The decision to go ahead with the game comes a week after an advisory by the Ministry of External Affairs, directing Indian citizens to defer their travel to the Island nation after their government’s imposition of a 15-day state of emergency in the country on February 5.
However, club officials at Bengaluru FC and decided to go ahead with the trip after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) received assurances guaranteeing the players’ security. “We have received the necessary permissions to go ahead with the trip,” a club official said, speaking to TNM.
Both Bengaluru FC and the AIFF requested the AFC to reschedule the match. However the continental body declined the request citing that the home team had given all the necessary assurances.
If Bengaluru FC had refused to travel, the AFC could have handed TC Sports Club a 3-0 win, and levied sanctions against the Bengaluru club.
Bengaluru FC’s squad reached Male City on Sunday evening and had their official training session on Monday evening. The return leg of the tie will be played in Bengaluru on February 20 with the winner progressing to the AFC Cup group stage.
The team made the trip without first-choice players including captain Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan and Dimas Delgado. “It’s something (rotating) we’ve been doing often and it works for us more often than not because we have a hungry squad that is willing to grab the chances it gets. Yes, we have qualified for the play-off stages in the ISL, but it’s important to keep our winning momentum going and we play a tough side in FC Pune City on the 16th of this month,” said Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca speaking ahead of the game.
Bengaluru FC is involved in the AFC Cup on the back of the team’s Federation Cup win in 2017. The Blues defeated Transport United from Bhutan 3-0 on aggregate in the preliminary qualifying round to set up the play-off round clash with the Maldivian club.
The team is in Maldives in flying form after five straight wins in all competitions. The team is also firmly perched at the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) table, five points clear of the chasing pack. It is the Bengaluru-based team’s first ever season in the ISL having made the switch from the I-League. It is the only team to have qualified for the play-off stage in the ISL this season.
Bengaluru FC must now shift their attentions to the continental game being played in the backdrop of diplomatic tension. The team is no stranger to surreal situations outside the football pitch, having visited Pyongyang in North Korea for an AFC Cup match in September 2017.