Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters took to Twitter to issue a public apology for their decision to "walk off the pitch prematurely" during their ISL eliminator vs Bengaluru FC at the Kanteerava stadium on March 3, 2023.
This comes two days after the club was fined ₹4 crore by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The Federation had asked the club to issue a public apology for their "unsporting conduct of abandoning the match", failing which the fine would have increased to ₹6 crore.
The Blasters' statement on Twitter read: "We would like to express our sincerest regrets for the events that took place during our knockout match vs Bengaluru FC on March 3rd, 2023. We recognise that our decision to walk off the pitch prematurely was unfortunate and taken in the heat of the moment. We would like to reiterate our respect for the larger football fraternity and assure everyone that we will take necessary measures to prevent such incidents from happening again in the future."
- Kerala Blasters FC (@KeralaBlasters) April 2, 2023
Blasters' head coach Ivan Vukomanovic was also penalised with a 10-match ban/suspension from AIFF held tournaments and a fine of ₹5 lakh. The ban is irrespective of whichever team he is contracted with and includes a ban from being a part of the dressing room or the team bench. Vukomanovic was also asked to issue a public apology, failing which his fine will be increased to ₹10 lakhs. The Serbian posted this on Twitter on Sunday evening -
We will come back stronger together
- Ivan Vukomanovic (@ivanvuko19) April 2, 2023
Earlier, in March, Vukomanovic had led his Blasters team off the Kanteerava pitch after Sunil Chhetri had taken a freekick quickly before the defensive wall (and goalkeeper) had been set. The club Blasters had subsequently filed a protest to the AIFF against referee Crystal John's decision to let the goal stand.