FC Goa's foreign players and head coach have had to cut short their Asian Champions League stints to return home as India struggles with a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, the club said on Thursday.
Captain Edu Bedia, defender Ivan Gonzalez, midfielder Jorge Ortiz, head coach Juan Ferrando and conditioning coach Javi Gonzalez -- all Spaniards -- plus Australia's James Donachie are among the contingent that have left India over fears further delays could result in them being locked down in the country.
"FC Goa would like to inform (everyone) that the club's foreign contingent including the Head Coach and foreign staff have been advised to travel back home immediately," the club said in a statement.
"This comes as a pre-emptive measure in view of recent policies being taken by European and other countries in regards to travellers from India as the nation battles the second wave of COVID-19 which has engulfed the country.
"While the AFC Champions League remains an important competition for FC Goa, the club management felt the well being of the players to be its first and foremost responsibility."
India's daily COVID-19 cases continued to soar on Thursday, passing 18 million after another world record daily infection tally. read more
The country reported 379,257 new COVID-19 cases and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday, the highest number of deaths in a single day in India since the start of the pandemic.
"Everything you see on television is true. There's a lack of oxygen and people are being cremated on the streets. You see this kind of thing happening and you feel sick," Ferrando told Spanish daily Marca.
Speaking from Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he will connect to Barcelona, the Spaniard told the newspaper that he and his compatriots were given little time to pack their bags and leave the country as the crisis worsens.
"It's such a tough situation," he said.
FC Goa, in their maiden campaign in the Asian Champions League, the continent's elite club competition, have failed to progress with three points from five matches so far and conclude their Group E games against second-placed Al Wahda on Thursday.
"It's all happened so quickly," added Ferrando. "Yesterday (Wednesday) we had a press conference at the hotel ahead of a Champions League game and the next thing my assistant is telling me we've got ten minutes to get our belongings and jump in a taxi.
"I left Goa for New Dehli in a mad rush. I went from thinking about the game to being on a plane."
The COVID crisis has prompted calls to halt the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament, which is being played in a bio-secure bubble and without spectators.
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