Vasco Sports Club were conspicuous by their absence from the Durand Cup on Tuesday. And the blame for their non-attendance at the world's third oldest football tournament is being passed around by the authorities.
"Due to the lack of time, we were not able to organize train tickets or accommodation for Vasco," said Lt. Col. MS Gill, secretary general and chief organiser of the tournament.
"We didn't have the time to get organized. It was a logistical problem. There were no rail tickets (for the 22 players) available and flying would have been too expensive," Alok Shah, CEO of the Goa-based Vasco SC said.
"We were informed about needing to organise accommodation in Delhi on Sep 15 and would have arrived in Delhi by the 17th. We didn't have aman there, so it wasn't possible."
Vasco's eleventh-hour pullout from the cup meant AOC Secundrabad, whom they were to play on September 18, the second day of the qualifying rounds, received a bye. The Durand Football Tournament Society (DFTS) could not find a replacement team in time.
"I made it very clear I wanted to visit Delhi, we want visibility. But given the paucity of time it was not possible for us to attend," added Shah.
Lt. Col Gill has blamed the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for pullouts and short notice. The tournament was rescheduled from January-October. "We were told on Sep 1. That gave us only 40 days to organise the tournament, and the sponsors wouldn't come on such short notice. They wanted more mileage."
For these reasons, Dempo Sports Club, also from Goa and one of the biggest teams in the country, also pulled out as their terms for attendance couldn't be met. The DFTS was given the choice of staging the Cup in either November or October, after the AIFF drew up its calendar.
"They were given the choice between November before the I-league or October, and they chose October. That's why they didn't have enough time," an AIFF official said. The tournament was rescheduled because the AIFF decided to conduct the next edition of the I League from the end of Nov, soon after the Asian Games. Alberto Colaco, AIFF secretary general said, "We consulted the participating clubs and decided to start the League in Nov. We also decided to play the league without interruption until we broke for the AFC Challenge Cup".
On Vasco not attending, he added, "I am not aware that they were invited. Maybe the organisers wanted to replace some team that withdrew with Vasco and they informed them at a very short notice."