The COVID-19 pandemic’s latest spike appears to be casting its shadow on the present edition of Indian Super League (ISL) as reports of players and officials getting infected continues to grow. The match between ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) and Bengaluru FC, which is scheduled to be played on Saturday at Fatorda, hung in the balance with both sides appearing uncertain about fielding their sides on the eve of the match-day.
Bengaluru FC called off the customary pre-match briefing by its head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli with a note of apology while ATKMB also did not share the response of its head coach Juan Ferrando after inviting the media to send match-related questions for the Spanish gaffer.
The teams also called off their general practice sessions and preferred to do light drills indoors, according to news coming out of the respective camps.
The situation is complicated by a recent instruction from the ISL CEO Martin Bain, who issued an e-mail to the clubs suggesting that a match will be continued if each side had 15 players available.
The ISL advisory said that if 15 players are not available the League will “try and reschedule the match at a later date” but if the rescheduling is not possible then a win with 3-0 margin will be awarded to the team that appears with the requisite set of players.
If both teams have players unavailable then it will be considered a goalless draw.
The letter assumed importance after ATKMB’s previous match against Odisha FC (scheduled on January 8) was postponed following reports of COVID infection in the former’s squad.
ATK Mohun Bagan, which reportedly did not conduct outdoor practice for the last five days owing to a number of players reporting positive, does not seem to be in a good shape.
It will have to leave out a few of its regulars if the match is held and with suspension and injury taking away Frenchman play-maker Hugo Boumous and Irish midfielder Carl McHugh, respectively, Ferrando will have a tough time stringing together a competitive outfit.
The news from Bengaluru FC too is not ideal and the possibility of some players testing positive kept the team management guessing about names who will be making the cut.
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