I-League season to resume on 3 March, two months after suspension due to COVID-19 outbreak

Kolkata, Feb 1 (PTI): The I-League season will resume on 3 March, two months after it was suspended due to COVID-19 outbreak inside its bio-bubble here, the All India Football Federation said on Tuesday.

The AIFF said the bio-bubble will start functioning again from 20 February onwards and strict COVID-19 protocols will be enforced to ensure the safety of the players and officials.

On 3 January, the I-League was suspended by the AIFF after a fresh COVID-19 outbreak hit the participating teams inside the bio-bubble here.

It was learnt at that time that a total of 45 COVID-19 cases had hit the league which prompted the AIFF to suspend the league for at least six weeks. All the players and officials had left the bio-bubble after that.

“Continuing as before, the Hero I-League will be played from within the safety of a bio-bubble, which will begin on February 20, with the players and officials needing to travel with three negative RT-PCR tests before joining the bio-bubble,” the AIFF said in a statement.

“Additionally, on the advice of Dr. Harsh Mahajan, Member of AIFF’s Sports Medical Committee, every players is also required to do a 12 lead ECG before arrival,” it added.

Once inside the bio-bubble, all the players and officials will need to serve seven days in quarantine, with three more tests done on them.

On returning three negative RT-PCR tests in quarantine, the players and officials will be free to operate from within the bio-bubble and attend training sessions, meals, team meetings and matches.

“We had stopped the league initially as we wanted to ensure the safety of the players and officials involved, and did not want COVID-19 to spread,” said the AIFF Leagues CEO Sunando Dhar.

Now, after getting the clearance from the relevant authorities and a go-ahead from Dr. Harsh Mahajan, we feel that with the positivity rates going down, this is the best time to restart the season.

“I have been in touch with all the clubs, and they have all expressed their excitement, and are looking forward to the restart,” he added.

Only six matches of the I-League season have been played so far— on 26 and 27 December— before it was suspended.

On 29 December, I-League was suspended for a week after COVID-19 breached its bio-bubble. Eight players and three officials had tested positive for the virus.

There will be no change in format of the I-League. The 13 teams will play against each other once in a round-robin format in the first round.

Once the first round is over, the teams will be divided into two groups. Group A will consist of the top seven teams that will fight for the championship title, while Group B will consist of the bottom six teams which will fight a relegation battle.

Each club will play their opponents in their respective groups once in a round-robin format in the second round.

The matches will be played across three venues— Kalyani Municipal Stadium, Naihati Stadium and the Mohun Bagan Ground.