All matches of 2020-21 season’s I-League and second division league qualifiers will be held in Kolkata with strict health and safety measures in place to deal with the COVID-19 threat, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said.
The decision was taken in a virtual meeting of the league committee chaired by AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta on August 14.
The I-League, the country’s second tier club competition, is likely to kick off in November while the second division qualifiers is tentatively scheduled for the third week of next month. But the schedule of both the leagues is subject to government clearance.
“Keeping in mind available infrastructure and … granting requisite permissions to organise 2nd division qualifiers and subsequently I-League 2020-21 including arranging for practice sessions for participating clubs, the Committee unanimously decided to grant hosting rights of 2nd division qualifiers and I-League to IFA, Kolkata,” the AIFF said in a release.
“The 2nd division qualifiers will also serve as a dress rehearsal for the I-League and enable all involved stakeholders to understand the COVID-19 bubble and operate likewise for a seamless operation,” it added.
The AIFF said the schedule and date for the second division qualifiers and the I-League, however, would be finalised once the guidelines from the central government are issued.
Dutta said that the AIFF will directly be responsible for the safety of the players and officials.
“The League department has already prepared the SOP which is to be strictly followed. The onus this year is not on the clubs but on the AIFF and the concerned state associations since we have already decided that the Leagues would be held in one venue. We need to adhere to all the safety protocols to ensure that not a single player or official gets infected,” he said.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das suggested the shortening of the duration of the I-League in view of the pandemic.
“Let it be absolutely clear that the safety of players cannot be compromised at any cost. It would be difficult to accept any COVID related infections on the players and officials,” he said.