ISL: NorthEast-Chennaiyin tie under cloud as political violence grips Guwahati

After having gone winless in the last three games, North East United will be keen to get back to winning ways against Chennaiyin FC.

Panagiotis Triadis will be the key man for NEUFC in Asamoah Gyan’s absence. Photo: ISL Media

The rising incidence of political violence in the region has put the possibility of the Indian Super League tie between the host North East United FC and visitor Chennaiyin FC on Thursday under cloud.

A good indication of the spiralling unrest was felt when the scheduled pre-match media conference on Wednesday afternoon was cancelled roughly an hour before it was supposed to take place.

Areas around the venue, the Indira Gandhi stadium, soon started resembling a city under siege as dark smoke from burning tyres set ablaze by the protesters engulfed the scene. The city came under “prohibitory orders” within a few hours as police and army took control. The usual hubbub of fans and supporters enquiring about tickets and passes for an upcoming ISL match was soon replaced by a staccato of gunfire and the agonised shouts of dispersing protesters as security personnel resorted to using their weapons to bring the situation under control.

By late evening, the city’s bustling civic life went under the restrictions of the law enforcing agencies and the possibility of “normalcy” regaining ground appeared remote. As of now the ISL management has preferred to watch the situation and work on the update given by the local organiser before deciding on the fate of the match.

Related | Jamshedpur FC 1-1 Chennaiyin FC - talking points

The host practiced in the morning much before the trouble started but the visiting side had to brave a deteriorating situation while having its training session in the afternoon. With adequate security provided, Chennaiyin went through the drills at the stadium and returned to its hotel without any hassle. Both the host and the visitor were not sure the match will be held under such strained circumstances.

The sporadic battles on the streets between the protestors and police seemed to obfuscate the prospect of a football match, which happens under the premise of ‘fair play’, on the turf of the sprawling Indira Gandhi Stadium.

After having been denied a win by its previous host, Jamshedpur FC, drawing 1-1 thanks to an 89th minute equaliser, Chennaiyin FC will be searching for the first away win of the season on Thursday. The host will be missing services of its Ghanaian World Cupper Asamoah Gyan, who aggravated an injury in the team’s last match against ATK. The former Sunderland forward has reportedly left the country for treatment.

Chennaiyin, which is looking to make a comeback under the stewardship of its new Scottish coach Owen Coyle, will be keen to take a cue from the way the ATK exploited the chinks in the host’s defence in its 3-0 win barely four days ago.

Masih Saighani picked up a knock in its last game and Coyle may replace the Afghanistan midfielder with Germanpreet Singh. Nerijus Valskis, who has scored four goals in his last three matches, will be looking to continue his scoring touch.

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