The seventh edition of the ISL is just a day away now. As the excitement surrounding the first fixture between ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters rises, it is a good time to revisit the unique circumstances in which the league is happening this year, as well as other must-know facts about the ISL.
Here are 5 things that you absolutely need to know about ISL Season 7:
#1 All matches to be held in Goa
For the first time ever, teams will not be traveling for away games to different parts of the country. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the matches will be held across three stadiums in the state of Goa. They are the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.
Teams will hence be staying in bio-secure bubbles in their hotels. There will be strict restrictions on their movement to and from the training grounds and stadiums. This will pose a unique challenge to the players and they will have to adapt to it fast.
#2 Most number of matches to be played in an ISL season yet
With the introduction of SC East Bengal in the league, we are set to witness the most number of teams as well as the most number of matches in an ISL season ever. SC East Bengal officially entered the ISL after a tender was floated by the league, and bidders for an additional team were invited.
East Bengal found an investor in Shree Cements, and are thus entering the league as SC East Bengal. ATK too have merged with Mohun Bagan, and we will be seeing the two Kolkata giants at the ISL for the first time this season.
#3 First Kolkata Derby to be played in the ISL
Now that both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are part of the league, we will witness the first-ever Kolkata Derby to be played in the ISL.
However, there is a bittersweet feeling to the entire affair, as there will not be any fans to witness the match. Nor will it be played in Kolkata where it is usually played and attracts crowds in excess of 80,000 people.
The passionate football fans of Kolkata will have to send their support for their beloved teams from afar.
#4 Entire league will be played behind closed doors
As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire season of the ISL will be played sans fans, as it is still not considered safe to let them into the stadiums. Players too won't be able to draw their motivation from the presence and cheers of spectators in the stands. It will be interesting to see how that affects the action on the pitch.
#5 First major sporting event to be played in India after lockdown
While it is true that the I-League qualifiers were held in Kolkata last month, the ISL is a different ballgame altogether. In terms of the number of teams and players involved, it is the first major sporting event to be held in the country since the first lockdown happened in March. The fact that the tournament is going ahead is a testament to the planning and execution of those involved.Published 19 Nov 2020, 13:36 IST