Calcutta: With a couple of days to go before their all-important AFC Cup semi-final clash against Kuwait SC, East Bengal find themselves in a quandary.
On Saturday evening, the squad was supposed to leave for Kuwait City for the October 1 tie. But three of their key players — captain Mehtab Hussain, Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh — could not travel with the squad because of visa-related issues.
Four other club officials — including football secretary Santosh Bhattacharya and team manager Manish Banerjee — were forced to stay back along with the trio because of similar problems. Livid East Bengal officials want the AIFF to take up the matter with AFC.
“It is really unfortunate that seven members of the contingent could not travel to Kuwait today.
“In Kuwait, you get visa on arrival. The contingent went to the airport as Kuwait SC had promised us they would arrange for the visas.
“But then, the no objections for the three players and the four officials from Kuwait didn’t arrive in time… We immediately got in touch with Kuwait SC. They said they would arrange for the same by noon on Sunday.
“Now, if they leave by the 8.30pm flight on Sunday, they will be reaching Kuwait City in the wee hours of Monday morning. There’s every possibility they will be tired. So, how do you expect them to play a match the very next day?” asked senior East Bengal official Debabrata Sarkar.
“We have already sent a letter to AFC via the AIFF (All India Football Federation), saying seven of our members didn’t get visas. Under the circumstances, we requested the AFC to postpone the match, but they rejected our proposal,” he added.
East Bengal are also smelling a conspiracy. “We see a conspiracy here. May be our opponents want to unsettle the team.
“We want AFC to probe the matter. AFC guidelines, too, should be followed here. If Kuwait SC are at fault and a provision is there for punishing the club, the AFC then should penalise them,” Sarkar remarked.
East Bengal have already incurred a loss of more than Rs 3 lakh due to the circumstances. “We have lost over Rs 3 lakh due to the inefficiency of the Kuwait SC officials.
“First, the match was supposed to be held on October 2. So, we booked our tickets accordingly. But then, the match was brought forward to October 1.
“Now that these seven members could not travel, we’ll again have to again pay for their tickets. We will urge the AFC to give us some compensation,” Sarkar said.
The players, for their part, are extremely upset with the entire episode. “It is a huge match for us. You need to remain both physically and mentally fresh before such a game.
“Now even if I’m fresh mentally, my body might not be able to cope with the exhaustion... The coach was furious after coming to know we won’t be able to travel with the squad,” Mehtab said.