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How did Columbus Crew get food poisoning ahead of CONCACAF Champions Cup final?

Wilfried Nancy has demanded rule changes after players and staff suffered serious illness leading up to the game against Pachuca.

Columbus Crew reveal full extent of pre-game food poisoning
Ulises Naranjo

Columbus Crew’s historic run to the CONCACAF Champions Cup final ended in heartbreak, a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the hands of Pachuca. But while many assumed that the MLS team had fallen foul of the high altitude at Estadio Hidalgo, but a more sinister explanation has emerged.

Crew officials have since revealed that a large proportion of players and staff had fallen ill following a team meal at their hotel in Pachuca on 30 May, two days before the final. Columbus president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has claimed that the sickness could have been the result of “subterfuge” after Pachuca were given home advantage for the game.

Midfielder Mo Farsi was one of many players reportedly feeling the affects of the illness ahead of kickoff and head coach Wilfried Nancy confirmed in the postgame press conference that his team were suffering.

Columbus coach calls for rule change

The Crew had already knocked out Monterrey and Tigres UANL en route to the final but they were outplayed in Pachuca. They made the trip to Hidalgo for the showpiece final but were left unable to play at their full potential, that has undoubtedly caused frustration within the team.

“I hate losing, but I respect the defeat. I could have said before the game we were all sick, because this is exactly what happened, but I didn’t do it,” Nancy said earlier this week. “It’s true that something happened over there. We were all good, and suddenly when we woke up, we were all sick.”

The Crew head coach has called for CONCACAF to ensure that the final is played on neutral ground in future, to prevent the risk of nefarious involvement in team preparations.

“I think that it could be fair for the future if we decide to play one game but to play one game, neutral site. That’s why for me, yes, this is not an excuse, but it’s a fact.”

In the past the CONCACAF Champions Cup final was a two-legged affair, which the two finalists taking turns to host one leg each. However for the 2024 edition hosting duties for the single-legged final were awarded to the team with the better performance in the previous rounds of the tournament.