Hobro has responded to the public and detailed accusation that it bungled Anatole Abang's proposed transfer to Naestved. A newspaper report followed by a furious post to Naestved's official Facebook page described a player (Abang) and a team (Naestved) urgently working to secure a deadline-day deal but thwarted by an insensitive, even negligent, lack of haste on the part of Hobro.
Abang's loan from the New York Red Bulls to Hobro was terminated on transfer deadline day in Denmark. Naestved moved quickly to sign up one of the few (or, perhaps, only) Cameroon internationals playing in the second tier of Danish pro soccer, reached agreement with the player, and then saw the deal go dead because Hobro wasn't in a mood to get it done. "I don't have access to a printer and the office is closed," is the quote attributed to an unnamed Hobro employee by an equally anonymous administrator of Naestved's Facebook page.
It is quite an accusation, and it paints Hobro as utterly insensitive to the desire of a 20-year-old player in a foreign country simply trying to get on with his career.
But there are two sides to most stories (this one might have three or four: Abang and RBNY could yet weigh in if they felt like it) and Hobro has responded. In keeping with the tenor of the conversation started by Naestved, Hobro doesn't hold back.
In an official statement on Hobro's website, the club's sporting director, Jens Hammer Sorensen, bluntly refutes Naestved's accusation:
We set ourselves baffled by the accusations from Næstved Boldklub. I have at no time received a request from Næstved, nor a request for the transfer of the player certificate.
He goes on to say Hobro did not stand in the way of any transfer and would not seek to impede any effort by Abang to further his career. The club's president, Lars Kuhnel, calls Naestved's account "alternative facts" and says the aggrieved team should simply have made a call to straighten things out:
Næstved could have been given the right context, they had just lifted the handset.
A report from Bold carries more information from Hobro. Perhaps slightly contradicting the apparent official position on the club's website that there was never an official transfer request, Kuhnel told Bold that Hobro had received a request, but the terms were not acceptable:
At around 22:30, Jens Hammer Sørensen an email, either from those in the US or from the Danish agent. In the paper we got there, it appeared that Naestved could be a new employer, which we only rejoiced.
But in the paper that we got, it appeared also that if MLS 'agreement with Næstved did not materialize, then we should still pay Abangs salary, which of course we can not when we lifted him.
A strange suggestion, indeed. If the proposal was that Hobro would be liable for Abang's salary in the event the deal didn't get done - effectively taking over his contract from MLS - than one can perhaps understand why the club pushed back. Kuhnel says the whole thing could have been settled easily:
If they had just picked up the handset and said that they would take all commitments around Abang going forward, so we could have signed the United States.
That didn't happen. Abang didn't get his transfer.
Naestved, of course, can talk to the press as well. The club's sports manager, Jesper Friesenholm told Bold everything had been settled and all that remained was for Hobro to file its paperwork:
I had all my papers ready, and had put them in FIFA's TMS system. We just sat and waited for the final details, as did the United States.
The onus was on Hobro, according to Friesenholm, because Hobro had not returned necessary certification to MLS or RBNY, and it was this certification that was required to complete the deal. Friesenholm admitted, however, that he had not been in contact with Hobro directly. The Danish soccer authorities and MLS were all Naestved thought it needed to get its man:
No, because it relates to the not so much the clubs themselves. We had to hire Abang of MLS so that our contact has been to them and DBU, which has been extremely helpful.
Friesenholm rejected any suggestion, however, that Hobro might have deliberately sabotaged the transfer:
I do not suspect anybody for. In Danish football is a really good manners and mutual understanding to help each other.
But to Friesenholm, the deal was done, he had turned away other options to bolster his squad up front, and the last-minute collapse of the transfer is a significant set-back to his plans for the rest of the season:
I had two other attackers on hand too, but them I said no, because we believed in it here. So it's a little strange taste, I sit with in the mouth today.
Clearly they disagree over the details, but it seems neither Hobro nor Naestved are happy with the outcome. Anatole Abang almost certainly isn't, and we can reasonably assume RBNY and MLS are a little disappointed too.
For RBNY fans, perhaps the most salient point to emerge from this spat between two Danish clubs is the apparent fact that the Red Bulls were quite happy to let Abang go. It is the MLS preseason and RBNY has two forwards on trial at the moment (Robbie Findley and Davide Somma), but when it got the news that Abang was going to be cutting his loan to Hobro short, the player did not come back to the Red Bulls. Instead, he tried to go to Naestved, with RBNY's blessing it would seem.
Whatever happens next for Abang, a return to RBNY looks like it isn't the preferred option.