Kitchee president Ken Ng Kin was furious yesterday after centre-half Zesh Rehman was forced to undergo a 24-hour ordeal in Delhi Airport before finally being allowed to enter the country. Kitchee are in India to face Churchill Brothers in the AFC Cup tonight.
Rehman, a British-born Pakistani, eventually got clearance to join his teammates for the group E match, after what he describe on Twitter as "the longest 24 hours ever". He added: "Finally all the paper work sorted to stay in India 4 the match on Wednesday".
Rehman's treatment angered Ng, who accompanied the team to the city of Pune.
"We know there would be problems for Rehman to play in India because of his nationality and we therefore started processing all the necessary documents a couple of months ago," he said. "But despite all these efforts, the player still faced so many difficulties in getting through the immigration that we considered sending him back to Hong Kong and not playing.
"He is just a sportsman coming to India to play in a football match and we are very disappointed he has been treated like a criminal.
"There were also problems in the journey through Delhi as it took us three hours to get off the plane to the hotel in the same terminal. It's a real experience."
Ng said while they appreciated the effort of Churchill Brothers in helping them to sort things out, they would still report all the problems to the Asian Football Confederation.
Rehman's partnership with Spaniard Fernando Recio in central defence is pivotal to Kitchee as they need a good result in Pune to enhance their hopes of making it to the round of 16.
After two successive defeats to Indonesian side Semen Padang, Kitchee are second in the group with six points, four behind the Indonesian leaders but two ahead of the Indians. A victory will almost certainly send them through to the next round.
Meanwhile, Sunray Cave Sun Hei face New Radiant of Maldives in group F at Mong Kok Stadium tonight. If they beat the visitors - against whom they lost 1-0 away - tonight, they still have a chance of making the knockout stage. They are third on four points, five behind joint leaders New Radiant and Yangon United of Myanmar.