SYDNEY: Australia’s planned A-League restart next week was thrown into chaos after three Melbourne teams failed to leave Victoria state when their dramatic airport dash to beat a border closure was scuppered by fog.
Nine days from the scheduled opening game, the A-League was left seeking a New South Wales government exemption for the teams after the border was shut to contain a worsening COVID-19 crisis in Melbourne.
The Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory and Western United players had planned to fly out Tuesday ahead of a midnight border closure, but were forced late Monday (Jul 6) night to race to the airport at short notice when the shutdown for Melbourne residents was brought forward by 24 hours.
But the hastily rearranged plans were thwarted when their chartered flight to Canberra was grounded because of fog over the Australian capital.
It left players and officials frustrated.
“Trying to get a chartered plane for three clubs within a few hours, it’s a difficult job and I know all hands were on deck to make it happen,” City’s director of football Michael Petrillo told SEN Radio.
“Unfortunately you can’t bank on the fog coming over Canberra because if that didn’t happen we would’ve been in the air and over the border and landed,” he said.
Western United striker Besart Berisha described the situation as “unbelievable” in a message on social media.
“Never in my life, in my career do I see this before,” he said.
With the NSW border now closed to Melbourne residents, Football Federation of Australia head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said they would seek an exemption for the Melbourne clubs.
“If we find it necessary to revise the match schedule we will do so accordingly and will announce once confirmed, however at this time the schedule remains the same,” he said in a statement.
The NSW government indicated it would be sympathetic to the request with Deputy Premier John Barilaro saying if the opportunity was there “let’s bring them across the border.”