ISL club Bengaluru FC returned to India on Monday evening from Maldives after the postponement of its AFC Cup playoff match against Eagles FC following a violation of COVID-19 protocols by three members of the visiting team.

The Indian Super League club boarded a flight from Male and landed in Bengaluru around 8.30pm local time, following which all the players and support staff went into a mandatory quarantine in line with the standard protocols.

The postponement came after the host country’s sports minister Ahmed Mahloof asked the ISL side to leave, citing breach of COVID-19 protocols, a sentiment echoed by club owner Parth Jindal.

“Bengaluru FC’s 2021 AFC Cup playoff stage clash against Eagles FC has been postponed until further notice, as confirmed by the Asian Football Confederation on Sunday. The club is making all arrangements to get all its players and staff home at the earliest,” BFC had said in a statement.

The match was to take place on Tuesday.

Mahloof termed the breach as “unacceptable”.

This was after reports emerged that some of the club’s players were seen on a street at Male in violation of the quarantine rules.

The club later issued an apology.

“Bengaluru FC would like to place on record an unconditional apology for a health and safety breach, involving one member of staff and two players, in the Maldives, on Saturday,” it said in the statement.

“The club will be dealing with this matter internally.”

Jindal too apologised for the “inexcusable behaviour of three foreign players/staff” and promised strictest action against them.

Local media reported that BFC players, who had reached Maldives on Friday, were seen on the Male streets, which was not permitted as they were given special permission to be in the island nation despite the ban on tourists from India because of a COVID-19 surge here.

“Unacceptable behavior from @bengalurufc breaching the strict guidelines from HPA (Health Protection Agency) & @theafcdotcom. The club should leave Flag of Maldives immediately as we can’t entertain this act,” Mahloof tweeted from his official handle.

“We have informed FAM that we cannot hold the match, and asked them to make arrangements for @bengalurufc’s departure. We will be in further correspondence with AFC through @MaldivesFA to postpone the group stage.”

Jindal said he will ensure such events do not happen in future.

“On behalf of @bengalurufc I am extremely sorry for the inexcusable behaviour of three of our foreign players/staff while in Male – the strictest action will be taken against these players/staff,” he tweeted.

“We have let @AFCCup down and can only say that this will never happen again.”