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Coppell against match in Delhi smog for ISL players

New Delhi (AFP) – Steve Coppell said he did not want his Indian Super League side Jamshedpur FC to play in smog-tainted Delhi later Wednesday but insisted the players would not wear masks if the game goes ahead.

The former England winger said medical authorities must decide whether the evening game against Delhi Dynamos should take place but “common sense should prevail”.

“If you are asking ‘Would I want to play in it?’, I don’t think so,” the former Crystal Palace and Reading boss said ahead of the game in the Indian capital on Wednesday evening.

As of early evening it was scheduled to go ahead.

Controversy is growing about sport in the city amid pollution that has reached hazardous levels this week.

Coppell, now with his second ISL team, was in charge of Kerala Blasters last year when they played against Delhi in November. Levels of the most harmful airborne pollutants hit an alarming 500 at that time.

Ahead of Wednesday’s game, the reading stood just below 150, still considered unhealthy and eight times over the World Health Organization safe level.

Coppell said that over the past year, “there has been exactly the same commentary about doing something about it and nothing has happened.

“Last year I said after the game I don’t think games should be scheduled at that particular time in Delhi,” he said.

While some Delhi players have been training in masks, as some Sri Lankan cricketers donned during a Test match this week, Coppell said this would not be possible in a football match.

“It would be very difficult to play football in a mask. I appreciate it can be done at a cricket match. You have the contrast as the cricket is there all day and you have got the football, which is intense over a shorter period of time.”

Sri Lanka players wore masks while fielding in the Test that ended in a draw on Wednesday. Players from both sides vomited during the game.

Indian cricket authorities played down the pollution threat, but spectators at the game were concerned. 

“I don’t think players will agree to come here if they don’t get the pollution under control,” said Australian tourist Sariska Neale, who was at the Test on Wednesday.

“We’ve travelled Asia a lot in the last few years and it’s the worst place we’ve ever been.”

She added: “If you’re not used to it I think it can really affect your health. So I don’t think it was something the (Sri Lanka) team was putting on. I don’t know if Australia would agree to come and play out here if it’s that hard.”

Indian fan Pragyan Chaturvedi said his eyes had hurt on Sunday when the pollution alert started rising.

“So I don’t see the Sri Lankan players acting at all. There was this effect of pollution,” he said.

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