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Bengaluru FC up against TC Sports Club in volatile Maldives for spot in AFC Cup group stages

By Aravind
A file picture of Bengaluru FC players in training (Image: BFC Media)

Male, February 12: Albert Roca said he expects nothing short of a stern test when Bengaluru FC take on Maldivian side TC Sports Club in the first leg of the AFC Cup play-off game to be played at the National Stadium in Male on Tuesday (February 13).

Maldives is currently in a state of emergency for 15 days after President Abdulla Yameen refused to abide by a Supreme Court order asking the regime to release 12 jailed MPs belonging to the opposition party. Maldives has assured the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that the Maldives National Defence Force would provide security for the visiting team.

Unfazed Bengaluru FC disregard MEA advisory

Even though the Union Ministry of External Affairs advised Bengaluru FC against travelling to the trouble-torn Maldives, the Indian Super League leaders went ahead with the trip after obtaining clearance from the All India Football Federation. TC Sports Club would be handed a 3-0 win in the first leg if BFC had failed to show up. Moreover, the club could also claim compensation from AFC if BFC refused to play the game.

Subsequently, the Blues arrived in the capital on Sunday after becoming the first side to secure a play-off berth in the Indian Super League but the Spanish manager said it would count for nothing when they attempt to take an important step to make it to the group stages of a competition Bengaluru has enjoyed relative success in.

"The game against TC Sports Club is going to be a tougher challenge than the one we faced in Bhutan. They have made it to this stage on the back of two good games against the team from Bangladesh. Their confidence along with being comfortable with the humid weather that we aren't used to, makes the challenge bigger," Roca said.

The side from Maldives rode on an Anatoliy Vlasichev hat-trick at home to get past Bangladeshi side Saif 4-1 on aggregate and book a date with Bengaluru. They will however be without first-choice goalkeeper Dmitry Asnin who, with an injured hand, is expected to be out for long.

Staying consistent with his policy of rotating the squad and handing players rest, Roca has made the trip without names like Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan Gonzalez and Dimas Delgado among others. "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." The list of players traveled includes Cletus Paul and Leon Augustine, who are part of the Bengaluru FC 'B' squad.

The Blues have a 100% win record away and at home against Maldivian clubs, having got the better of Maziya S&RC twice in previous editions of the AFC Cup, but Roca doesn't make much of the statistic. "It needed a goal in the 90th minute to beat Maziya the last time we played here. Also, things are different this time. TC Sports Club are a new side for us, one with young players and an experienced foreign player who is doing well for them. Tuesday will be a fresh chapter and the squad will treat it exactly like that," said Roca.


Trouble-torn Maldives

Maldives is in a state of emergency and the Foreign Affairs Ministry advised BFC against travelling to the island.

Fearing sanctions

TC Sports Club would have claimed compensation had Bengaluru FC failed to show up

Trouble in paradise

Some praised the courage of Bengaluru FC as they travelled to Maldives at the height of its political turmoil.

Naveen Peter

The MEA directed Bengaluru FC to defer its travel.

Ahmed Mahloof, Maldives MP

Some use the game as a political tool as well

Shy AFC

The AFC did not respond to a query from mediapersons on whether it considered postponing the AFC Cup match.


TC Sports Club vs Bengaluru FC

AFC Cup play-off

Live from Male, Maldives

At 9.30 pm (Tuesday, February 13)


Source: BFC Media

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    Story first published: Monday, February 12, 2018, 19:05 [IST]
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