Chennai City FC, who came up with a gutsy effort to win a point against defending champions Bengaluru FC on Wednesday, had some trouble within their ranks before the game, as revealed by the head coach V Soundararajan.
Versatile Afghan midfielder Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri has been one of their most consistent players and had even notched a goal in their previous game against DSK Shivajians. But it was a surprise to see the Afghan's name not included in the starting eleven. Though he was named as a substitute, the 27-year-old did not make an appearance on the night.
When queried regarding this, Soundararajan revealed that Amiri had not reacted well to being named in the substitutes' bench. He said, "I don’t have a replacement for the striker position. In the last match against DSK, Amiri played very good and gave us the maximum level. But we did not have good substitutions, especially Raegan who has not played well of late."
"But today I wanted to give Raegan a chance and wanted to bring Amiri on later. But unfortunately, he was expecting to play in the main eleven and he doesn’t want to play as a substitute. He refused to play. He did not want to do the warm up," he revealed.
Carrying on in the same vein, the former Andhra Pradesh state coach commented, "I thought it would be useful if Amiri came as a substitute as he is better than Raegan and would have an impact. If I start Amiri and then bring Raegan on, he would not have played up to the mark and we wouldn’t have a good substitution. We were playing a well-organised team in Bengaluru. So I changed my strategy."
Then, Soundararajan went on to describe the turn of events that transpired when Amiri came to know of the decision to bench him. "After I declared my team, he was not happy and I said it depends on him (whether to play or not). I have not found any mistakes with Amiri but he wants to play only in the main eleven. According to my strategy, it was not possible. Once we declared the final team, he went out of the room. It is not a good manner to have. After that, we did not want to talk to him much. But he felt a bit bad after the game and we talked to him," he explained.
"I told him the substitute role was very important. If he had come on, it would have been useful for us but he refused to do warmups. Even though we are not against him but he thought so."
Further, Soundararajan said that he did not choose Raegan Albarnas over Amiri because of any pressure from the management to play local players and it was purely a tactical decision. "There was no pressure from the management. I did not want to start a valuable player and then bring him off for Raegan. This way, a valuable player like Amiri would have been there at the end of the game. I thought Amiri would have been our strongest substitution. But he is not able to understand the situation," exasperated Soundararajan.
The coach also confirmed that the club will decide on disciplinary proceedings if needed, later on.