The Henderson Eels football club in Solomon Islands have suffered a major blow in preparation for the OFC Champions League knockout stage after the teams passports were stolen from the back of a van at the weekend.
The Eels squad are scheduled to fly to New Zealand on Thursday week ahead of their quarter final clash against defending champions Team Wellington next weekend.
Head coach Eddie Marahare said a bag containing 19 passports was snatched from the back of their team manager's vehicle outside Honiara's main market on Saturday.
He said the incident came four days after visa applications had been lodged for the players to travel to New Zealand.
"We are getting support from the police and the immigration (department) and the government there to see how we can go about," he said.
"We are submitting a new application for our passports today (Tuesday) so hopefully we should have them by the end of the week."
"I'm not sure how we are going to deal with the issues with the visas but I'm also quite sure that our manager and other team officials they will be having consultations with the New Zealand and Australian passport office and with the high commission's help we can go about the issue now."
Eddie Marahare said fortunately five of their players - Desmond Tutu, Boni Pride, Tutizama Tanito, Raynick Laeta and Joses Nawo - were overseas with the Solomon Islands national team so still have their original passports.
He told the players not to worry about the off-field issues but admitted it was disturbing to have to call players away from training and have them fill out forms to apply for a replacement passport.
He said the visa process usually takes about a week so there will be a bit of uncertainty until the matter is resolved.
Eddie Marahare said the Henderson Eels team owner has agreed to pay for replacement passports, at a cost of $24,000 (Solomon).