A fuming FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera said their much-delayed Indian Super League match against ATK that got over well past midnight should have been declared ‘force majeure’.
In a first in Indian football, the match kicked off last night at 10.45pm in peak winter after a day-long drama surrounding FC Goa team’s arrival that got delayed following a couple of technical snags and crash of a fighter jet at the Dabolim airport that forced the closure of the runway.
The match was originally slated for December 31 but the organisers had to postpone the match as police refused to make security arrangements on the New Year’s eve.
“We accepted the change from December 31 and agreed to play the match on January 3. But within the prevailing circumstances and causes that were there today, I think it called for a force majeure,” the 40-year-old said at the post-match news conference that got over past 1am.
“We respect what’s been told to us. But obviously it’s not what we would have liked. Never in my life, I’ve seen a situation like this in professional football. ISL is a great league and it does not deserve matches like this.”
The coach said FC Goa risked the health of their players by playing the match.
“The health of players is paramount and we took a big risk in that. We are not the ones to make a decision whether we should play or not. It’s the people who make rules should tell us whether we should play or not,” Lobera said, hitting out at the organisers.
The Gaurs opted for a chartered plane on January 2 to reach here after they were unable to get reservations of their technical staff and players on a single passenger flight.
But the chartered flight developed a technical snag and the team could not fly out of Goa on January 2 afternoon and rescheduled their departure time to 10am on the match day.
Then again there was another technical snag and they could not take off. More bad luck was in store for FC Goa as a MiG-29K aircraft caught fire after veering off the runway, which led to operations at the Goa airport being suspended in the afternoon.
“The circumstances that we had to face in last two days as a team did not permit us to play this game,” the Spanish coach said.
“It’s not good as a spectacle, not for the fans and not for the league in general. We took a flight yesterday but it had to turn back due to emergency landing,” Lobera added.
FC Goa’s chartered flight finally took off at 6.30pm after getting the necessary clearance and landed at around 9pm at the Dum Dum airport from where they headed straight to the Saltlake Stadium.
“We spent the entire day at the airport with nothing to eat and nowhere to rest. And we had to come here running because if we did not leave, there was a possibility that we would have lost three points,” Lobera said.
“It was an incredible day. I’ve never seen a team training in their travel gear and this is not good for anybody.
“We had to change and come back for the match within five minutes after training in travel gear. So it was obvious that we ended up conceding a goal in the first four minutes,” he added.
A Robbie Keane opener was cancelled out by Goa’s all-time leading goalscorer Ferran Corominas in space of 20 minutes as both teams shared spoils after the drama surrounding the kickoff.
“The only thing I will be content about today is that none of my players are injured. There was nothing physically that was serious. My players did a lot of good work today and that’s the only thing I can thank them for,” Lobera said.
“The players put in a lot both physically and mentally. They did everything they could do.”
FC Goa will now travel to Guwahati to play NorthEast United FC on January 6 before returning to Goa to take on Jamshedpur FC at home on January 11, which means the Gaurs will take the field three times in nine days.
“The adverse condition that we are facing is not just for today. What is concerning is the matches we have after this. All will get affected. I am glad we ended stronger as on another day, we could have won,” Lobera concluded.
An ISL official, however, put the blame on FC Goa team management and questioned their strategy to fly out via a chartered plane.
“They had 48 hours to reach Kolkata and also got reservations for 36 members. They could have flown in 36 and the remaining from the technical staff could have come on the match day. It could have been avoided,” he said.