West Ham’s Europa Conference League play-off opponents Viborg have been handed a cruel blow ahead of Thursday night’s first-leg clash in Stratford.
The Danish outfit have confirmed that they will be without two first-team players due to new entry rules for non-EU citizens following Brexit.
Winger Ibrahim Said, from Nigeria, and Gambian Alassana Jatta were unable to secure visas in time to make the trip to London, as the application process takes weeks, even months, and the fixture was only confirmed last week after the Danish Superliga team beat B36 in the previous qualifying round.
Both players are first-team regulars, with Said, in particular, a constant fixture in Viborg’s starting XI. Jatta has had to settle for a role off the bench this term but did appear as a substitute in the final round to score as the Danes won 5-1 against their Faroe Islands opponents.
A statement from the club reads: “We are extremely sorry that we have not been able to get visas for the two players.
“We have tried everything, and have been in close contact with DBU [Danish Football Association], UEFA, the two embassies and another foreign club which has been in a similar situation, but unfortunately, this has proved to be impossible, as there is a processing time of several weeks and the match was only finally decided a week ago.”
It is a cruel blow to a club that is embarking on one of the biggest games in its 126-year history, having taken the Danish top-tier by storm last term, finishing seventh in their first year after promotion.
With a population of around 40,000, Viborg is a small and old-school club that has yo-yo’d between the leagues in Denmark for much of its existence.
And now they’re going to be without two of their first-team players as a result of Brexit and visa rules, which will further weaken them against such superior opposition.