PRACTICE TIFF: Aizawl FC stop practice midway over timing, Bengaluru FC; coach outraged

THINGS ARE NOT going well for Aizawl FC head coach Manuel Retamero Fraile. He is about to lead his boys, the youngest squad in the league, into a historic top division home debut encounter against Bengaluru FC tomorrow. But all of a sudden an unforeseen set of problems have disrupted all his plans.

No, it's not about injuries or problems in the squad. They remain united as ever. Only yesterday, Fraile told TFG that his players are in the fray for "all Mizo people", and he has made sure that they understand the responsibility. But the issues have come from elsewhere.

The Aizawl FC squad. (Image: Aizawl FC Facebook Page)

First, Fraile himself took ill and had to take some rest in order to be in full health for the match. It wasn't such a big deal but a disruption nonetheless. Then, yesterday, things took an unsavoury term as he did not get the time slot he wanted for practicing at the venue of the match, the picturesque Rajiv Gandhi Stadium. Fraile wanted to start his pre-matchday practice at 11 am to emulate the matchday conditions. But he was only given the 8 am slot because Bengaluru FC were doing their practice session from 10 am onwards. 

The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl. Image courtesy: Aizawl FC official website

It was a repeat of the kind of treatment he received in Kolkata, where Aizawl FC where given the same inconvenient early-morning slot for practicing at the Barasat Stadium. Fraile took to Facebook to express his disappointment with the local authorities,

"I can understand that the first priority [in Kolkata was] for the local team Mohun Bagan but now we play in Aizawl... who [should] have the priority, I ask [myself]... maybe they can't wake up very early and we can."

But that wasn't all. Today, when the Aizawl FC squad was in the middle of their practice session at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, the Bengaluru FC squad showed up around 9:20, half an hour before their practice was scheduled to start. Fraile was busy with tactical practice, and was none too happy to see the opponent team in the vicinity. He immediately cut the practice session short. 

But the club's technical director, who was quite taken aback when the opponent team showed up, rushed to the rescue. He had the Bengaluru FC staff sent behind closed doors and the Aizawl FC team moved to the far end of the pitch. All this ate up precious time and by the time Fraile and his boys resumed practice, only a few minutes of their scheduled time slot remained.

Later, the Aizawl FC coach posted on his Facebook account about this incident,

"It's incredible, I can't have my practice because Bengaluru comes very early before the practice; thanks for this... maybe we are away and they play at home..."

Bengaluru FC are one of the strongest clubs in the I-League and playing against them is a tremendous task for a newly-promoted club like Aizawl FC. But disruptions like this that hinder them from having proper preparations can make a lot of difference in their performance at the match. Maybe this is something the sports department of Government of Mizoram, which owns and maintains the stadium, should keep in mind for subsequent home games of Aizawl FC, who are the first and sole representative of the state in the country's top division.

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