Unprofessional handling of bio-bubble resulted in ‘destroying dreams’ of women’s football team: Coach Thomas Dennerby

India women’s coach Thomas Dennerby blamed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for ‘destroying’ the team’s dreams and accused them of ‘unprofessional’ handling of the bio-bubble, which led to a Covid-19 outbreak in the team.

The AFC rules forced India to withdraw from the ongoing Asian Cup after the hosts were unable to field a mandatory 13 players for their match against Chinese Taipei last Sunday.

As on Wednesday, Dennerby said 19 out of the 23 players in the squad and six support staff members tested positive.

Speaking from his hotel room in Navi Mumbai, where the entire team is in isolation, Dennerby said the team and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) could’ve done nothing more in terms of taking precautions.
“Honestly, we are not happy with the AFC’s tournament organisation and lack of solutions. One way, it destroyed our dreams,” he said.

The 12-nation competition is being held across three venues in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune. The pre-tournament organisational part was handled by a Local Organising Committee but it is learnt that the team hotels were chosen by the AFC and in-tournament operations, including the bio-bubble protocols, too are being handled by them.

Dennerby hinted that the Indian team got infected through the hotel staff. The 62-year-old Swede said the staff of the hotel where the Indian team has been put up had undergone RT-PCR tests on January 17.

“The result of the test was given to the AFC on the 18th. (But) the AFC did not send the results to the hotel until the 19th. Seven hotel staff infected with Covid, including team India coordinator, kitchen staff, chef, housekeeping, service staff… all those taking care of us while we were quarantined,” he said. “Why didn’t the AFC send the report earlier? Why wait the whole day? I think that was an unprofessional way to handle it in an AFC bubble, no explanation can be good enough.”

Dennerby said that after the goalless draw against Iran, ‘not many players were feeling good’. The following day, on January 21, the players were tested, which resulted in seven positive cases. The coach said they tried to have a ‘logical, reasonable dialogue with the AFC’ but they did not have a ‘solution-oriented’ discussion, eventually leading to India getting forced out of the competition.

“This is my worst feeling as a head coach ever. Me and the team are devastated. Our dreams are forever field,” Dennerby said.

An email has been sent to the AFC, seeking their response.

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