The Indian FA official was of the opinion that no chance should be taken with regards to the safety and welfare of the players….
The Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League should consider holding a condensed competition in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das suggested.
The Coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the sporting world, with many leagues curtailing their seasons. Even top European competitions like the Champions League and Europa League have changed their format to hold the competition over a shorter duration.
Kushal Das made the suggestions during a virtual meeting of the AIFF’s League Committee which was attended by AIFF Senior Vice President Subrata Dutta and I-League CEO Sunando Dhar and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) representative Chirag Tanna among others.
According to current plans, both ISL and I-League are set to take place in a centralised venue in a safe bio-secure environment which is designed to decrease the exposure of players and staff involved from the outside world and by extension the Coronavirus.
This is in line with how most of the leagues world over are functioning. However, there are no plans to shorten the ISL and I-League seasons as of now, which means the players will have to remain in the bubble for almost four to five months.
It must be noted that the pandemic has shown no signs of easing in India, with the country registering a record 64000+ cases on Thursday. However, the rate of recoveries has also increased in the country.
However, Das feels that no chances should be taken with respect to the safety, physical and mental health of the players.
“The safety and health of the players are of paramount importance. The FIFA President (Gianni Infantino) in his virtual meeting with Presidents of all other MAs (member associations) have highlighted on ensuring the safety of all players and officials,” he said.
In fact, the General Secretary was very firm with his suggestion.
“It’s not the time for opinions or views. Let it be absolutely clear that the safety of players cannot be compromised with at any cost. There have been instances of global leagues condensing their format. We need to be extremely hard on it.”
It must be noted that the Chinese Super League (CSL) had started their 2020 season last month at two centralised venues with bio-secure bubbles implemented for the safety of the players. More importantly, they had changed the format of the league and shortened it.
The 16 CSL teams will be divided into two groups where they will play each other once in a round robin format. The top four teams from each group will then play a championship stage while the bottom four will play a relegation round. All in all, CSL’s 2020 season is set to be completed in just 70 days from what was originally a nine-month league.
Even then, they had taken special care in ensuring the players have enough entertainment, with hotels turned into miniature towns with cafes, hair-dressers, libraries and even convenience stores apart from various indoor games.
More importantly, psychological counselling was made available in order to ensure their mental health which can be challenged due to the fact that they are closed off from the outside world for 70 days. Not to mention the mental stress and physical stress a possible Covid-19 infection can inflict upon the players.
“We need to relook at the duration of I-League and ISL to ensure the absolute safety of players. It would be difficult to accept any Covid-19 related infections on the players and officials.”
“Organising the league in one single venue under current circumstances is not easy. We need to think rationally. I reiterate that we should, and will do what is best to ensure the safety of the players,” Das added.