The Asian Football Confederation has announced that all Group D matches of the AFC Cup have been postponed indefinitely following an incident related to Bengaluru FC surfaced on Saturday. The board has asked all participating clubs to return home while adhering to Covid-19 protocols. “The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) can confirm that the AFC Cup (South) Group D matches, which were scheduled to take place from May 14 to 21, 2021, will not be held in Male, Maldives," the AFC statement read.
“Participating clubs who have travelled to Maldives 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. 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."
The decision comes after the Football Association of Maldives (FAM) earlier in the day had requested the AFC to cancel the play-off match between India’s Bengaluru FC and Maldives’ Club Eagles and postpone the group stage fixtures to a later date.
FAM had even notified ATK Mohun Bagan and the other participating clubs of the AFC Cup 2021 Group D that the group stage matches which were scheduled to be held between May 11 to May 20 in Male will be postponed, according to Goal.com.
Bengaluru FC were scheduled to face local club Eagles FC in a playoff match after which the Group D matches were scheduled to start on May 14 with fellow Indian Super League (ISL) side ATK Mohun Bagan facing the winners of the playoff.
Earlier, Maldives’ Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof condemned Bengaluru FC for breaching the guidelines issued by the country’s Health Protection Agency as well the AFC. Mahloof did not describe the nature of the breach but termed Bengaluru’s behaviour as “unacceptable", saying the club has to leave Maldives “immediately".
“Unacceptable behaviour from @bengalurufc breaching the strict guidelines from HPA & @theafcdotcom. The club should leave (Maldives) 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," Mahloof tweeted.
His tweets came after local media reported that a few Bengaluru FC players were spotted in the streets and also posted photos of the players. Mahloof said in a tweet later that the government has informed the Football Association of Maldives (FAM) that the match cannot go ahead and will later ask the Asian Football Confederation to postpone the group stage matches scheduled to be held in the country after the game.
(With IANS inputs)