Panaji: As secretary and coach of Dempo Sports Club, Armando Colaco had refused to release players for unofficial tournaments involving India, but life has come full circle for the national coach as he will have to embark on the team's upcoming Caribbean tour with a severely depleted squad with several clubs taking a similar stand.
Following in the footsteps of Kolkata-based clubs, Pune FC and Salgaocar Sports Club too have refused to release their players for the five match series starting in August 10 against Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados and a select President's XI.
Pune FC players Subrata Paul and Jeje Lalpekhlua are central to Colaco's plans and both are automatic starters in the starting XI.
But the latest development puts a huge question mark over the genuineness of the team, if not the tour itself.
"We have just found out that the tour matches will not add to India's points (in the ranking system). It's just a friendly tour and makes no sense to release players right in the middle of pre-season. We have conveyed our decision to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in writing," Pune FC, director of operations, Chirag Tanna said.
According to Tanna, Jeje, their star striker, has been playing non-stop for the past 18 months and needs rest more than anything else at this hour, while goalkeeper Paul needs to recover from a niggle that he has been carrying for some time now.
He denied that his club's decision was a result of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal's steadfast refusal to release players, or at least some of them, but he didn't see anything wrong in the Kolkata clubs' line of thinking.
Salgaocar has released two of their players from the original list for the Caribbean tour. But while Rocus Lamare and Karanjit Singh are in Delhi, two late additions sought by coach Colaco - Anthony Barboza and Gilbert D'Mello - haven't as yet got the nod from the club management.
"We all want Indian football to grow and the national team to become stronger, but in my opinion this tour has come in the middle of pre-season. Despite all of that, we collaborated but the latest development (of clubs refusing to release players) is unfair," Salgaocar coach Karim Bencherifa said.
"The AIFF has to make sure that the same standards are applied to all clubs. If some clubs are allowed to keep players, for whatever reason, we must also be allowed to do the same and prepare in a similar manner for the fast-approaching Federation Cup," he added.