The bizarre situation in which FC Goa was asked to play its Indian Super League (ISL) match against ATK at the Salt Lake Stadium here late on Wednesday night invited scathing criticism from Goa coach Sergio Lobera.
The Goa team, which landed here at 9 p.m. and took the field for a 10:45 p.m. start due to flight issues, went through a day-long turmoil before managing a 1-1 draw in the contest that finished well past midnight.
Read: FC Goa earns creditable draw after chaos
“Never in my life, I've seen a situation like this in professional football. ISL is a great league and it does not deserve matches like this,” said Lobera.
“The circumstances that we had to face in last two days as a team did not permit us to play this match... It was an incredible day. I've never seen a team training in their travel gear and this is not good for anybody. It's not good as a spectacle, not for the fans and not for the league in general.”
Lobera narrated his team's ordeal. “We took a flight yesterday but it had to turn back due to emergency landing. We tried to do the same and we found a technical fault again in the plane.
“We spent the entire day at the airport with nothing to eat and nowhere to rest (in the aftermath of the MiG plane crash in Goa). We had to come here running because if we did not leave, there was a possibility that we would have lost three points.”
Lobera said his team should not have been forced to play. “We accepted the change from December 31 and agreed to play the match on January 3. But within the prevailing circumstances and causes, I think it called for a force majeure.
"We respect what's been told to us, but obviously it's not what we would have liked.”
The 40-year-old Spaniard said the team took a big risk as far as players' health was concerned. “We have a match on January 6 (against North East United FC) and another one (against Jamshedpur FC on January 11). So, it is not just today's match which is affected, but (also) all these matches that are coming up.
“The only thing I will be content about today is that none of my players are injured. They did a lot of good work today,” Lobera said.
ATK coach Teddy Sheringham also raised his concern about the delayed start.
“We've had a rough day too. It was a tiring day and was seen in the performances of both teams... We were told different kick-off times. It's been a frustrating day and I think it showed. It was a hard day at the office,” said Sheringham.
“It is the first time I've finished a game at 1 a.m. which is very unusual...We were expecting a big crowd here tonight. But we were delighted with the number of fans who stuck with us despite the kick-off being delayed by almost three hours. We are thankful to them.”