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Indian football’s midnight drama, FC Goa vs ATK ISL game gets extra late

According to Indian Super League (ISL) competition rules, a match can start a maximum of two hours after scheduled kick-off. However, there is also a provision to extend that if the home team agrees and here ATK did against FC Goa.

football Updated: Jan 04, 2018 08:43 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
ISL,Indian Super League,FC Goa
FC Goa players arrive at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Stadium in Kolkata, straight from the airport, to play their Indian Super League (ISL) match on Wednesday.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

For the first time a football match in India didn’t end on the day it began. That happened because Wednesday’s match between ATK and FC Goa in ISL4 started at 10:45pm, two hours and 45 minutes behind schedule. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.

READ | FC Goa weather early storm to salvage point against ATK in Indian Super League

And just as unprecedented was 19626 fans waiting patiently for an evening that turned into a night of football. At 10:47, the Salt Lake stadium was reverberating with chants of ATK, ATK as Robbie Keane headed home, Ryan Taylor’s free-kick.

The delay happened because FC Goa reached Kolkata at 8:58pm and the stadium at 9:42pm. But their kits hadn’t arrived so in jumpers, shorts and jogging shoes they warmed up till 10:20pm. The outfield players got the feel of a football minutes before kick-off.

The kick-off time was deferred four times. A media release from the league at 5:02pm said the start would be delayed by an hour. The public address system at the stadium then said it would be 9:30pm, changed it to 9:45 and 10:15 before going silent.

FC Goa’s arrival was scheduled for Tuesday evening but the private aircraft they were using developed a snag and the team had to return to base. They could not take off till match day evening primarily because the airport in Goa was shut down following an Indian Air Force plane catching fire there on Wednesday.

According to sources in the ISL, two aircraft, one in New Delhi and another in Jabalpur, were kept on stand-by after the plane originally hired to fly them couldn’t be repaired. But the one in Jabalpur, which is closer to Goa, too wasn’t deemed air-worthy meaning that a plane flew from New Delhi to bring the 40-odd FC Goa contingent to Kolkata. That plane reached Goa around 5:30 and took off at 6:30pm.

According to competition rules, a match can start a maximum of two hours after scheduled kick-off. However, there is also a provision to extend that if the home team agrees and here ATK did. After all, it is not often that you get to play straight off a plane.

The match was originally scheduled for December 31 but with the city police denying permission to hold it on that day because of New Year’s Eve celebrations, it was changed to January 3. FC Goa decided to charter a flight as they couldn’t get seats for their full contingent in any airline.

FC Goa are scheduled to play NorthEast United FC away on Saturday and ATK travel to Bengaluru for a game on Sunday.

FC Goa also play Jamshedpur FC at home on January 11 and their president Akshay Tandon had said they are unhappy at the fixture congestion. Coach Sergio Lobera too had criticised this, saying such changes could affect the standings. “I find it surprising that they take decisions like this unilaterally,” Lobera had said.

This is the second time in the ISL that a team flew in on match day. On December 4, 2015, Mumbai City FC reached Kolkata on the day they were scheduled to play ATK because floods in Chennai had disrupted travel plans after that game on December 1. Mumbai City won and forced ATK into a semi-final showdown against eventual champions Chennaiyin FC.

Mumbai Indians too have come to Kolkata on match day in the Indian Premier League but the matches were inconsequential in the context of that season’s competition.

First Published: Jan 03, 2018 23:43 IST