Several foreign players of the I-League clubs are stuck in India due to the nationwide lockdown amidst the Coronavirus pandemic….
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the world of football and domestic football in India has been on hold since March 14. The Indian Super League (ISL) final between ATK and Chennaiyin FC was the last bit of action Indian football fans witnessed before the country went into a rigorous nationwide lockdown.
The last I-League match was played between Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC at the Kalyani Stadium on March 10. Mohun Bagan had picked up the all-important win which helped them to secure the title before the season was suspended.
The Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown affected everybody but more so the foreign contingent of the I-League. While the overseas players in the ISL had ample time to leave the country, Most I-League players were stuck because there was no clarity on the curtailing of the league. When the lockdown was imposed by the Government, there was no clarity for the AIFF on when it could resume the league.
The decision to end the league finally was taken only on April 21, 2020. As a result, the overseas players could leave India only after that decision was taken. Many of them have managed to get back to their countries. However, with commercial flights suspended, there are some who are still stuck in the country.
We take a look at the foreign players of all 10 I-League clubs who are still stuck in India.
Mohun Bagan had arranged for the repatriation of their three Spanish players, Francisco Gonzalez Munoz, Francisco Morante and Joseba Beitia along with Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna and his assistants Tomasz Tchórz and Paulius Ragauskas on May 4. Tajikistan international Komron Tursunov left the country on May 28.
The only foreigners who are left behind in India are Senegalese striker Papa Babacar Diawara and Trinidadian international defender Daneil Cyrus. Both players are still in Kolkata and are waiting for international travel to resume.
East Bengal’s Spanish brigade which consisted of Juan Mera Gonzalez, Jaime Santos Colado, Marcos De La Espada Martinez, Victor Perez and coach Mario Rivera and his assistant Marçal Trulls Sevillano left the country along with Mohun Bagan’s Spanish group on May 4. The only Spaniard who had stayed back at that time was physical trainer Carlos Nodar.
Nodar was accompanied by Costa Rican World Cupper Johnny Acosta and Senegalese midfielder Kassim Aidara who stayed in Kolkata until the middle of June. Aidara was the first to leave on June 14 followed by Nodar and Acosta on June 18 and 19 respectively.
Other than Cameroonian striker Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka and Nigerian defender Eze Kingsley, all the other foreign recruits of the club had left the country before the nationwide lockdown on March 25.
While Dipanda is still stuck in Punjab, Kingsley had travelled to Kolkata and is currently residing there.
“I am still in Punjab. I chatted with my consulate and they told me that they can do nothing as it is not they who decide. Now I have to wait until the international travelling in India resumes,” said Dipanda to Goal.
Even though he is not really enjoying his stay in India, Kingsley had a completely different perspective. He told Goal, “I am in Kolkata currently. I will be here until international flights start working. The cases are on an increase in my country. So I don’t want to take a risk.”
Real Kashmir FC
Three Real Kashmir FC players Loveday Enyinnaya, Gnhere Krizo and Armand Bazou are yet to return to their respective countries due to Coronavirus pandemic. The three players are stuck in Kashmir and are residing in the club’s facilities.
Scottish head coach David Robertson, his son and Real Kashmir defender Mason Robertson and English striker Kallum Higginbotham had left the country on May 7 in a special flight arranged by the British High Commission. Zambian defender Aaron Katebe has also left the country.
Five out of Gokulam Kerala’s six foreign players from last season are still in Kolkata. Forwards Henry Kisekka and Atuheire Kipson (from Uganda and Rwanda respectively) are waiting for their medical test results, based on which they are expected to leave on July 4. Trinidadian footballers Andre Ettienne, Nathaniel Garcia and Marcus Joseph are waiting for their embassy’s response.
Spanish coach Fernando Santiago Varela and Afghanistan international defender Haroon Amiri left the country on June 10 and June 15 respectively.
It must be noted that all the players’ expenses have been taken care of by the club during the nationwide lockdown even though their contracts had expired.
Chennai City FC
Every single foreign player from Chennai City have left the country. The club had reached out to the respective embassies of the footballers and made sure that the players made their way back to their country. Spanish players – goalkeeper Nauzet Santana, defender Roberto Eslava, midfielders Fito and Sandro Rodriguez – left towards the end of April on a repatriation flight while coach Akbar Nawaz left for Singapore later.
All foreigners of Aizawl FC, except Matias Veron, were stranded in the country until July 1. Veron was the first foreign player to leave the country in May. Justice Morgan and Richard Kassaga left Aizawl for Kolkata on July 1. While Kassaga travelled to Mumbai on July 2 and then took a flight back to Uganda on the same day, Justice Morgan’s flight to Nigeria is on July 4.
Ugandan defender Joseph Adjei is still in Aizawl but he is expected to fly back by the first week of July. Unfortunately, midfielder Abdoulaye Kanouté will have to stay back in India for a longer time as he cannot return to Mali due to the ongoing civil war in the country.
The club provided accommodation to all the foreigners during the lockdown and have also paid for their flight tickets.
Four footballers – Willis Plaza, Dawda Ceesay, Robert Primus and Abu Bakr – are still stuck in Goa and are waiting for the international travelling to resume in India. Portuguese striker Socrates Pedro and Ghanaian midfielder Kalif Alhassan had left the country before the lockdown.
All six NEROCA FC foreigners are still stuck in India amidst the nationwide lockdown – Ousmane Diawara and Boubacar Diarra (Mali), Taryk Sampson and Marvin Phillip (Trinidad & Tobago), Attila Busai (Hungary),Philip Adjah (Ghana). The foreign players will fly back to their respective countries once international flights resume.
Unlike their city rivals, TRAU FC had managed to send back their entire foreign contingent – Oguchi Uche, Joseph Olaleye, Joel Sunday and Princewill Emeka (all Nigeria), Gerard Williams (St. Kitts and Nevis), Isaac Isinde (Uganda) – before the nationwide lockdown was implemented on March 25.