Army team hit by Covid-19 pulls out of Durand Cup
Covid-19 breached the 130th Durand Cup here with around 15 players from Army Red testing positive leading to the team pulling out of Friday's quarter-final against FC Bengaluru United (FCBU).
The news broke on Thursday afternoon when a crowd of approximately 10,000 were allowed at the Salt Lake stadium for the quarter-final between Mohammedan Sporting and defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC. This was the first time fans were present in a football match in India since the semi-finals of the 2020 Indian Super League.
A media release from the local organising committee said "positive Covid cases" have been reported in the Army Red squad. "The Army Red squad has decided to withdraw from the tournament as a result and FCBU received a bye into the semi-finals," according to the release.
"All decision have been taken keeping in mind the health and safety of players and officials primarily and the continuity and success of the tournament," according to the release.
The semi-finals are scheduled on Monday and Wednesday with the final on October 3. All games will be held at the Salt Lake stadium.
Details of the number of players and staff testing positive were not provided but an official connected with the tournament said 15 in the Army Red team had tested positive. Because of Covid-19, teams were allowed to register a maximum of 30 players for the tournament. Army Red had a squad of 26, said the official.
The official also said this wasn't the first positive test in the tournament. "Three players from another team representing the armed forces had tested positive," the official said. That team lost in the group stage. The official said only teams from the armed forces, some of whom were staying in barracks, have returned positive tests so far.
With 16 teams divided into four groups the Durand Cup began on September 5. Teams and match officials have been lodged in allotted hotels in Kolkata and regularly tested for Covid-19, according to a tournament representative.