Bengaluru FC and Blasters grouped together in Super Cup

Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters, the two teams in the centre of a storm after the Kochi side walked out midway through their Indian Super League playoff match recently, find themselves in the same group in the Hero Super Cup which will be held in Kozhikode and Malappuram from April 8 to 25.

The draw of lots for the Super Cup, which will see ISL and I-League clubs fight each other, was held on Tuesday and Bengaluru, the Blasters, Roundglass Punjab FC along with the winner of qualifier-1 find themselves in Group ‘A’, one of the four groups in the event.

“Unfortunately, that happened. And it (the draw of lots) was live and since it is a qualifying round for the AFC Cup, transparency had to be there,” P. Anilkumar, the secretary of the Kerala Football Association, told The Hindu on Tuesday. “We have nothing more to say.”

But the Blasters’ presence in the Super Cup itself is in doubt at this stage since the AIFF is yet to give its verdict on the team’s walkout.

“That is pending …at the moment, they are not suspended and that is why they have been included in the list. They will decide in a day or two and in case there is any disciplinary action, they will change the fixtures accordingly,” said Anilkumar.

The AIFF disciplinary committee, which met on Monday, had rejected the protest lodged by Blasters after their walkout in Bengaluru on March 3.

In its protest, the Blasters had disputed a goal scored off a freekick by Bengaluru’s Sunil Chhetri and had sought reliefs on two counts, saying the match should be replayed and strict action should be taken against the said referee.

After going through the laws of the game as well as the reports by the officials, the committee said, “the protest is not maintainable in law, as the conjoint comprehensive and holistic reading of the league rules and the code clearly provides that no protest can be entertained against a referee’s decisions, since the said decisions are final and binding.”

No matches in Kochi

Coming back to the Super Cup, Kochi’s Nehru Stadium was also in the plans to host the event but has now been dropped.

“In Kochi, there is difficulty in getting spectators to fill up the stadium (Nehru Stadium capacity around 60,000) especially when the home team is not playing. The ISL had a good crowd since the Blasters were playing,” said the KFA secretary.

But at the Payyanad Stdium in Manjeri (Malappuram), which will host the Super Cup along with Kozhikode’s EMS Corporation Stadium, the huge crowd could be a worry.

“In Manjeri, this will be the first football event of this kind happening. That is why were are anticipating a big crowd and some difficulty to manage when you compare with the Kochi stadium. The crowd capacity (in the Manjeri ground) is 20,000…Kochi can hold something like 60,000,” said Anilkumar.

The groupings (league matches, April 8-19): Group A ( Kozhikode): Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters, Roundglass Punjab, Winner Qualifier-1.

Group B (Manjeri): Hyderabad FC, Odisha FC, East Bengal FC, Winner Qualifier-3.

Group C (Kozhikode): ATK Mohun Bagan, FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC, Winner Qualifier-2.

Group D (Manjeri): Mumbai City FC, Chennaiyin FC, NorthEast United FC, Winner Qualifier-4.

Semifinal 1 (Kozhikode, April 21), Semifinal 2 (Manjeri, April 22).

Final: Kozhikode (April 25).

Qualifying playoff matches (April 3-6 at Kozhikode).

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