Dhaka, March 30:
The Indian Under-23 football team, here for the Asian Championship, on Monday survived a fire scare when smoke was spotted coming out from the rear end of the team bus.
The team was on its way back to the team hotel after the Monday morning recovery session when the smell of something burning pervaded the bus and smoke was spotted in the rear end of the vehicle, according to an All India Football Federation (AIFF) release on Monday.
The 30-member contingent was left stranded on the streets for a short while before being eventually dropped off at the team hotel by the escorting police jeeps in turns.
A few of the support staff, including head coach Savio Medeira, even walked towards the team hotel before being picked up by vans which were shuttling to offer help to the members of the stranded squad.
“It was scary. For a moment we were flummoxed. We just couldn’t understand what to do,” head coach Medeira said in the release.
“I need to thank the local police in Bangladesh for their timely support and cooperation without which we could have ended up worse.”
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Football Federation general secretary Abu Nayeem Sohag met Medeira and enquired about the incident and assured full cooperation from their side.
Nevertheless, the shock on the faces of the players was very much evident even after settling down at the hotel. Even as they went through their routine treatment, rest and meals, the incident kept coming back to haunt them, they said.
“It’s my responsibility to see that the players stay relaxed and get in the mood for the match,” Medeira commented at the pre-match media interaction.
Earlier on Monday morning, the boys had a recovery session at the Sheikh Jamal Dhanmundi ground located in the heart of the Bangladesh Capital.
“It’s going to be another tough battle for us. It’s understandable that Bangladesh will be desperate for a victory on their home soil and we intend to finish off with a victory too,” he said.
“Every match starts afresh and we expect an intense battle. Playing under the lights will lift our spirits and give us that extra bit of recovery time,” he stressed.
For the record, both of India’s matches so far kicked-off at 3 p.m. which had even forced the referee to go for an official drinks break midway in the match.
The hosts, on the other hand, will play their third consecutive match under the lights at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Meanwhile, Syria take on Uzbekistan to decide the Group E winners on Tuesday.
The non-availability of central defender Shankar Sampingraj, who was given the marching orders in the last match against Syria, has come as a problem for the think tank.
“It’s a setback for sure as we are running low on defenders. But we have to take it in our stride and be in the right frame of mind. It’s useless crying over spilt milk,” Medeira stated.
Though the spectator-turnout hasn’t been noteworthy even for the two Bangladesh matches so far, the organizers are expecting a large audience for the match.
“It’s the SAFF Derby. We are expecting a turnout of around 15,000 or even more,” said an organising official.
The kick-off at the Bangabandhu Stadium on Tuesday is slated at 5.30 p.m. IST. IANS