Last-minute revisions in football fixtures draw strong criticismMatches will be played in a round-robin format without enough rest in between.
Last-minute changes in the tie-sheet for football matches of the 13th South Asian Games has drawn strong criticism from coaches of participating nations.
In the earlier tie-sheet, six nations were divided into two groups with the best two teams progressing to the semifinals. However, the tie-sheet was revised after India chose not to participate. Based on the current format, the football tournament will be played in a round-robin league structure with the top two teams contesting for gold, while the teams finishing third and fourth will compete for third place.
Head coach of Maldives, Pete Segrt slammed the tie-sheet revision as “absurd”. “Changing the tie-sheet just because India chose not to participate is not acceptable for us. Playing a game every day is not possible. It is unprofessional from the organising committee,” he said.
“The health of our players and the quality of the tournament will be severely affected. We cannot risk our players—who also have other tournaments to participate in—getting injured,” said Segrt. “I will speak with our federation because this is just not right. I hope the organising committee will make amends.”
Captain of the Maldives team, Akram Abdul Ganee echoed his coach’s sentiments, “Playing a game every day is crazy. Our players cannot play like this.”
The Maldivian coach says he is seeking support from other coaches to file a protest regarding the change in tie-sheet.
Based on the revised tie-sheet, the Maldivian team only have a single rest day. They play against Sri Lanka on Monday and Bangladesh on Tuesday, followed by a break on Wednesday. They take on Bhutan on Thursday before playing against hosts Nepal on Friday.
“We feel disrespected by the organisers; this just does not happen anywhere in the world,” said Segrt. “We want them to revert to the previous tie-sheet.”
Sri Lanka head coach MN Packeer Ali shared Segrt’s opinion. “The tie-sheet is simply against the laws of the game,” he said. “We have to consider the injury and fitness aspect for the players. Everybody should consider this.”
Ali said his team includes experienced players, and they’ve come to Nepal to play good football. “But the format has got us concerned. We can only have 20 players in the squad, which means injuries will be a major issue.”
In sharp contrast, Bhutan Captain Chencho Gyeltshen said they had no complaints with the tie-sheet, “We are the underdogs. We are ready to fight against other nations. We have nothing to say about the fixtures.”
Bhutan coach Pema Dorji, although had some frustration with the fixtures, said they were ready to play.
“Hosts Nepal have the home advantage while Bangladesh are a strong side. But we are not bad ourselves,” said Dorji, while adding, “The conditions in Kathmandu are similar to that of Bhutan, so we feel at home.”
Bangladesh’s coach Jamie Day also criticised the revised tournament fixtures.
“These are a ridiculous amount of games in a very short span of time. I have never seen or heard of anything like this before,” he said, adding that all the teams will be suffering from injuries on such a tight tie-sheet.
Nepal head coach Bal Gopal Maharjan and captain Sujal Shrestha did not show up for the pre-tournament press conference.
Hosts Nepal take on Bhutan in their first match of the tournament on Tuesday followed by a clash against Sri Lanka on Wednesday. With a day’s break on Thursday, Nepal will play against the Maldives on Friday. The hosts enjoy another day off on Saturday followed by their last match against Bangladesh on Sunday.