I-League 2017/18: Aizawl FC defender Masih Saighani detained at Imphal airport ahead of NEROCA FC clash
What's the story?
In a surprising turn of events on Wednesday, Afghanistan defender Masih Saighani was detained at the Imphal Airport in Manipur as he was not carrying a Protected Area Permit along with him, a pre-requisite for Afghani nationals travelling to the state of Manipur.
Saighani was travelling with the Aizawl F.C ahead of the crucial clash against NEROCA and was held back at the airport, which enraged the defender who could not believe the sad state of affairs he had to undergo.
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The 31-year-old Saighani has buckets of football experience under his belt, having played almost all his football in Germany since 2004. Primarily a defensive midfielder, Saighani represented TSV Steinbach for 2013-2015, making 65 appearances, while he made his national debut for Afghanistan in 2015.
Heart of the atter
Currently placed 6th on the table after having played twelve games, the club, under the tutelage of head coach Paulo Menezes have benefitted from the Afghan defender's addition to the team. After being detained, Saighani himself spoke out about his current plight.
"Once I arrived at the Imphal airport, I was told that since I hold an Afghan passport, I needed a special letter. The unfortunate part was that neither did NEROCA FC tell us about it nor did the club have a clue that such a situation would arise," said Saighani.
The defender was surprised at what had transpired and added, "It's strange that I was treated this way, since only a couple of days ago I had represented an Indian club in Iran (Zob Ahan vs Aizawl FC) and here I was left to face this situation," while mentioning that he was taken aback by the decision.
It is understood that the decision to detain him was taken as per the Protected Area Permit clause that comes under the Foreigners Act which states that citizens of Chinese, Pakistani or Afghan origin require prior approval to visit their states of Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs and action can be taken against faulters of this law.
Saighani was detained at the airport for three hours, after which he was allowed to return to the team hotel. However, he is unlikely to be a part of the Aizawl side that is set to take on NEROCA on Saturday, as he is set to return to Mizoram on Thursday.
While Saighani's detaining in the airport goes by the rules as per the government, it could serve as a lesson for the future that could see clubs taking extra care in ensuring the safe travel of foreign nationals across cities in India.