Bashundhara Kings want to analyze what went wrong in their AFC Cup qualifying campaign, which ended in contentious circumstances on Monday, and decide how to improve their fortunes in international competitions.
“Regardless of what happened, regardless of how our players performed and the calls the referee made, the reality is that we could not qualify,” Kings president Imrul Hasan told the Daily Star yesterday.
“There are a lot of regrets, but now we want to look forward,” he said.
Kings needed just one point from their last Group D match at Bhubaneshwar against Odisha FC to qualify for their first inter-zonal play-off semifinal.
However, after their Uzbekistani player Asror Gafurov was controversially issued a direct red card at the halfway point of the match for a foul he committed near the center line, Kings lost their hold on the game, conceded a second-half goal, and lost the match 1-0.
This setback cost Kings the opportunity to establish themselves as one of the major clubs in the South Asian region, which has been one of their main aims since the beginning.
The star-studded Kings have been an unstoppable juggernaut in the domestic circuit under Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon, with four league crowns and a couple of Federation Cup and Independence Cup triumphs each since joining the top flight in the 2018-19 season.
However, success in the AFC Cup has eluded the Kings, who have yet to qualify for the knockout stage in four attempts.
Interestingly, this was the Kings’ second failure to clear the final barrier to an AFC Cup quarterfinal berth. In 2021, they required a win over ATK Mohun Bagan in their last game, but they lost after their defender Sushanta Tripura was sent off in first-half stoppage time.
Following the match on Monday, Bruzon urged the AFC to probe the referee’s actions “for the sake of football.”
However, before taking any official action, the Kings president wanted to hear the players’ and coach’s stories.
“We want to first talk to everyone, go through the report and then make the decision.”