ISL 2017: How FC Goa had to race to the Salt Lake Stadium to catch a constantly 'delayed' kickoff against ATK
Two teams – ATK and FC Goa – from India’s footballing powerhouses Kolkata and Goa were set to face each other on the last day of 2017. The high-intensity match between the two-time champions and the 2015 finalists was postponed to four days later – January 3 by the ISL organizers.
However, it seems that fate is now playing a hand with the fixture. They were originally set to fly to Kolkata on Tuesday, the eve of the match. However, their chartered flight experienced some problems while take-off on Tuesday evening and they had to delay their travel to the morning of the match.
On Wednesday, their flight was delayed again as a jet caught fire on the runway, delaying all flights departing from the Dabolim Airport.
While these delayed flights cast a shadow of a doubt over the match itself, ISL organisers stayed true to their original (or rather, second string plan of hosting an 8pm kickoff on January 3, despite the fact that the Gaurs could only commence their journey from the west to the east coast of the country only around late afternoon, just a few hours before kickoff.
Now, the main issue with this is that the ISL regulations state that the teas must reach the venue at least 90 minutes prior to kickoff. Keeping the extraneous circumstances in mind, the match was finally delayed for a 9 pm kickoff.
However, even at 7.30pm, the visitors were nowhere close to landing at the Dum Dum Airport in Kolkata. Seeing this, the authorities further delayed kickoff till 9.45 pm; Goa eventually set off from the Dum Dum airport at approximately 9.30pm – just 15 minutes ahead of kickoff.
Inevitably, the match had to be further delayed to 10.15 pm, and then to 10.45 pm, which is way past bedtime for any young football-crazy kid watching the match – either from the stadium or from their couch.
FC Goa’s journey to the stadium was literally a race to make it in time, as the ISL authorities kept delaying kickoff, in order to host the match on January 3. However, the viability of such a late kickoff draws many questions, the first of which is how one can expect a team that was stranded at the Goa airport all day to land in Kolkata late at night and still be fresh enough to play a match.
To add to that, there is also the question of how the few ardent fans, who do choose to stay for the late kickoff, will make their way back home, in a match that will clearly end beyond midnight.