Al Nasr’s Ivan Jovanovic calls on AFC to investigate all ‘players who have two passports’
DUBAI // Ivan Jovanovic has challenged the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to investigate thoroughly all its member clubs after Al Nasr were punished for allegedly fielding an ineligible player last month in the Asian Champions League.
The Dubai club were charged on Monday for playing Brazil-born striker Wanderley in the first leg of their quarter-final against Qatar’s El Jaish on August 24. The match in Doha finished 3-0 to Nasr with Wanderley, a summer signing from Sharjah and thus making his debut, scoring twice.
More Asian Champions League:
• Al Nasr appeal AFC’s decision to forfeit Champions League quarter-final over Wanderley’s ‘false’ passport
However, the AFC later received information claiming Wanderley’s Indonesian passport was falsified and this week decided to reverse the result. Subsequently, El Jaish go into Wednesday’s second leg with a 3-0 lead.
Wanderley had already been provisionally suspended for 60 days earlier this month.
Nasr, contesting the Champions League knockout stages for the first time, have confirmed they will appeal the ruling and vowed to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if required. Meanwhile, the AFC are apparently currently examining two other cases similar to Wanderley’s, although details of the players or their respective clubs have not been released.
In accordance to Champions League regulations, teams are allowed to field three foreigners plus one more if the player has Asian nationality, of which Wanderley claimed to have based on an Indonesian passport.
Speaking on Tuesday at Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium, manager Jovanovic said: “In football, as in life, there are some things you cannot accept or understand.
“You are preparing for days and months to be ready for a single moment, a single game you have in front of you. Maybe we won’t get the result we want and afterwards there is a big disappointment and pain in how we feel.
“But this pain and disappointment becomes even bigger when it doesn’t come on the pitch, but with a decision from an office or an institution. At this point I would like to say something to the AFC: I believe they should continue the same way, with the same speed and passion, to check all the players in all Asian competitions, players who have two passports, two nationalities.
“The AFC’s punishment on Al Nasr was very strict at the most historic time for the team. To protect their image they have to do the same with all the players who have two passports. We will be here and we will be waiting.”
Jovanovic said everyone at Nasr was “very, very sad”, but insisted the team could overcome the potentially decisive setback. He also criticised the timing of the decision, which was announced early Monday during Eid Al Adha, two days before the second leg with El Jaish.
“The decision is very strict for us,” he said. “Also the timing, in the biggest celebration for Arabic people, so it was a very bad moment. And for my players and me too: how much time it gives me to prepare myself and my team for this situation. Because it’s a knockout stage, any decision should come before the game and, of course, it should come quicker, not 48 hours before the game.
“What we have to do on the pitch, I’m sure we’re going to do. But I don’t want to feel after the game and the result that it was an unfair situation. That’s why, as a member of this team, I want this punishment to be the start of AFC to continue to search.”
Asked about how the decision affected his strategy for the match against El Jaish, Jovanovic said: “My preparations for the team are not how the players will be on the pitch, I want to prepare them mentally. Because they had a dream, this dream was already achieved to get to the semi-final, but now this dream is out, not like it was before. Now I have to prepare for a new situation.
“Football is a game of feelings. Not only about technical and tactical strategies in the game, but also the psychology of the team. We still have 24 hours.”
Meanwhile, Nasr received a substantial vote of confidence from the Football Association yesterday. Mohammed bin Hazzam, the FA’s general secretary, described the AFC’s decision as “hasty, untimely and unacceptable”, and said the Dubai club had the full backing of his organisation. The FA has appointed a legal team to liaise with Nasr’s lawyers.
“The UAE FA fully supports Al Nasr in claiming its natural and legitimate right, namely counting their victory in the first leg,” Bin Hazzam said. “Following this issue, the club had time and again explained that it had properly followed the procedures in registering the professional player Wanderley.
“Any objections or observations should have been expressed by the AFC during the registration of the players and not after their actual participation.
“Hence, we as a football association demand that the AFC count the results of the first leg as they are fair results achieved by the team’s efforts and performance, and that they ignore any issues raised here and there to affect the results of the first and second leg matches.”
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Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM