Fri. Oct 30th, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) — For the second time this season, K League 1 football club Incheon United have asked Montenegro not to call up their striker Stefan Mugosa for international matches, so they could retain his service for a key juncture of the season.

Incheon officials said the Football Association of Montenegro recently asked to bring Mugosa home for the Oct. 7-15 FIFA international match window. During that stretch, Montenegro are scheduled to play three matches — a friendly against Latvia on Oct. 7 and two group stage matches at the UEFA Nations League tournament against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg on Oct. 10 and 13.

Incheon are locked in a tight battle with a handful of clubs to avoid being relegated to the second-tier K League 2 next season. With the 12th and last-place team getting sent down, Incheon are currently in 11th place. They are tied with Busan IPark in points with 21, and Incheon are only ahead in the second tiebreaker, goal difference, by minus-9 to minus-12. There are four matches remaining.

Mugosa is Incheon’s leading scorer, having scored 11 of the club’s 21 goals. He has scored two hat tricks this month.

The K League will go on a break during the FIFA window, and in normal circumstances, Incheon wouldn’t be missing Mugosa for any matches.

But during the coronavirus pandemic, all international travelers coming into South Korea must serve a 14-day quarantine. With Mugosa also being subject to it if he were to leave and come back, Incheon most likely won’t have him for matches on Oct. 16 and Oct. 24. He may only be available for Incheon’s season finale on Oct. 31

Incheon said they’ve asked Montenegro to reconsider their decision to call up Mugosa. For official FIFA matches, clubs are obligated to release their international players.

Incheon nearly lost Mugosa for a big chunk in September, as Montenegro tried to call him up for the Aug. 31-Sept. 8 FIFA window. The K League club had also sent a letter to the Montenegro football federation asking it not to take Mugosa for international matches.

Incheon got their wish, not from any change of heart by Montegro but from a temporary rule change by FIFA. For the September window, the mandatory release didn’t apply to clubs if players had be quarantined for at least five days upon arrival at the country of that club, with governments offering no exemption for athletes in such instances.

Incheon said they have also asked FIFA if it would consider making a similar change for the October window.

“Mugosa is such an important player for our club,” an Incheon United official said. “We’ve done everything we could (to keep him). We’re just hoping to receive good news again this time.”

By Bureau