Bengaluru FC, ATK Mohun Bagan’s AFC Cup matches postponed
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Sunday postponed the AFC Cup Group D and play-off matches, which were set to feature the likes of ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC (BFC) in action later this week in Male, Maldives.
“The AFC Cup (South) Group and Playoff Stage matches are now postponed until further notice with more information to be announced in due course,” the statement from the governing body read.
The AFC did not reveal the cause for the postponement but a breach in COVID-19 protocols by some BFC players and staff is likely to have led to the move.
The Maldives’ Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Ahmed Mahloof, called for the immediate departure of the Indian club from the country, which is witnessing a sharp spike in coronavirus related cases.
“Unacceptable behavior from @bengalurufc breaching the strict guidelines from HPA &
@afcdotcom. The club should leave Maldives immediately as we can’t entertain this act,” Mahloof wrote on Twitter.
BFC’s owner Parth Jindal issued an apology after the breach in COVID-19 protocols and promised the ‘strictest action’ against the squad members involved.
“On behalf of @bengalurufc I am extremely sorry for the inexcusable behavior of three of our foreign players/staff while in Male - the strictest action will be taken against these players/staff,” Jindal tweeted.
“We have let @AFCCup down and can only say that this will never happen again.”
BFC were set to square off against Maldivian club Eagles FC in the play-off match while ATK Mohun Bagan were slated to be in action later in the week.
The Sunil Chhetri-led BFC landed in Male last Friday while ATK Mohun Bagan were in a bio-bubble in Goa. The other teams in the group were Bashundhara Kings from Bangladesh and Maldives’ Maziya SR&C.
“Participating clubs who have travelled to Maldives for both the Group and Playoff Stages will be required to arrange for their return home while adhering to the COVID-19 health and travel protocols put in place by the country,” an AFC statement read.
“At the same time, the AFC is in contact with all other participating clubs and officials who have not entered the Maldives to cancel their travel arrangements.”