Fearing sanctions and a premature exit from the tournament, and banking on assurances provided by the Maldives National Defence Force, Bengaluru FC reached Male City on Sunday to play their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup match against TC Sports Club on February 13. Bengaluru made the journey despite the Ministry of External Affairs’ travel advisory, which directed Indian citizens to defer their travel to the island nation.
However, a Bengaluru FC official said they went ahead with the trip only after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) received a go-ahead from the MEA on Sunday morning. The government, on Saturday, had warned the Indian club to avoid travelling to Maldives, which has been in the state of emergency since February 5.
Subsequently, the AIFF and Bengaluru FC requested the AFC to postpone the match. However, the continental body refused to reschedule the match, citing that the host club had given all the necessary assurances. According to sources, the AFC also pointed out that the Indian government had merely issued an advisory and that there was no travel ban imposed. “So they conveyed to us on Sunday morning that the match would be played on Tuesday, as scheduled,” an AIFF official said.
Earlier, in a letter to Srinivas Murthy, Head of Operations, Bengaluru FC, MEA under-secretary (Maldives, Indian Ocean Region) Sushil Prasad wrote: “This is in reference to the newspaper article… in The Indian Express Delhi edition of today about the visit of Bengaluru FC to Male to play a match of Asian Football Confederation Cup against TC Sports Club of Male at National Stadium in Male on February 13, 2018… Since state of emergency imposed in Republic of Maldives since February 5, 2018, India has issued a travel advisory… advising Indian nationals to defer their trip to Maldives until further notice. Bengaluru FC is advised to adhere to it strictly and defer their proposed visit to Maldives.”