CHENNAI: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Monday all but confirmed that next season’s Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League will be held at a single venue each. The ISL is likely to kick off the Indian domestic season in Goa on November 21 while the I-League is expected to start a couple of weeks later and will be held in Kolkata.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das informed that the matches will be played behind closed doors. “The idea was to hold the tournaments at a single venue due to the Coronavirus pandemic. So we have been looking at venues with multiple grounds and zeroed in on Kolkata and Goa. Since Kolkata will also host the Under-17 Women’s World Cup starting in February next year, the Salt Lake Stadium won’t be available for the preceding three months. So hosting ISL in Kolkata was ruled out even though the leagues will continue during the World Cup. For the initial phase, fans won’t be allowed inside the stadium,” Das said in a webinar organised by Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Das feels that hosting the tournaments at a single venue will help solve a lot of logistical issues. “We are aiming to reduce the travelling aspect of players, support staff, referees and match officials. All the teams will be accommodated in one or two hotels. That way, it will be easier for AIFF to conduct regular Covid-19 tests on all the personnel and keep a tab on them,” said Das.
Ever since Mohun Bagan moved to ISL after the merger with ATK, there has been a lot of speculation over East Bengal’s future. Das said East Bengal need to take a leaf out of Bagan’s book and come up with a sound financial plan if they want to play in the country’s top league. “Our club licensing criteria will open from July 15 and East Bengal still carries the name of their previous sponsors Quess. East Bengal do have a few months’ time to put their house in order and find solid investors. They need to have a fool-proof structure like the way Bagan have,” said Das.
India men’s camp in Bhubaneswar
Football will resume in the country with India’s World Cup qualifier against Qatar on October 8 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. India coach Igor Stimac wanted a six week’s camp in Europe but Das ruled out the possibility. “If there is a camp it has to be in Bhubaneswar. We have written to the Odisha government for their suggestions. We are looking to start the camp by the third week of August. Don’t know whether a six-week camp is possible. We are still waiting for a response from the Odisha government,” he said.