Bengaluru, May 10: Former Indian Super League (ISL) champions Bengaluru FC returned to India on Monday (May 10) evening from Maldives after the postponement of their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup play-off match against Eagles FC following a violation of COVID-19 protocols by three members of the visiting team.
The ISL club boarded a flight from Male and landed in Bengaluru around 8.30pm local time, following which all the players and support staff went into a mandatory quarantine in line with the standard COVID-19 protocols.
The postponement came after the host country's sports minister Ahmed Mahloof asked the ISL side to leave, citing breach of COVID-19 protocols, a sentiment echoed by club owner Parth Jindal.
The match was supposed to take place on Tuesday (May 11).
Mahloof termed the breach as unacceptable after reports emerged that some of the club's players were seen on a street at Male in violation of the quarantine rules.
The club later issued an apology. "Bengaluru FC would 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," it said in the statement.
"The club will be dealing with this matter internally."
Jindal too apologised for the "inexcusable behaviour of three foreign players/staff" and promised strictest action against them.
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. We have let @AFCCup down and can only say that this will never happen again— Parth Jindal (@ParthJindal11) May 9, 2021
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 in the island nation despite the ban on tourists from India because of a COVID-19 surge in the country.
"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.
Unacceptable behavior from @bengalurufc breaching the strict guidelines from HPA & @theafcdotcom.— Ahmed Mahloof (@AhmedMahloof) May 8, 2021
The club should leave 🇲🇻 immediately as we can’t entertain this act.
We honoured the commitment we gave a few months back even with the surge in cases & pressure from the public. https://t.co/RXxma0hyjm
"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."
Jindal assured that such events do not happen in future.
(With Agency inputs)