With the I-League qualifiers set to begin on the 8th of October 2020, the preparations have begun in full swing.
The pandemic might have thrown a wrench in the pre-season and subsequent preparations, but the All India Football Association (AIFF) have managed to create secure bio-bubbles as well as safe environments for the I-League qualifiers.
Sunando Dhar, the CEO of the I-League, addressed the media on what was to come in terms of the I-League qualifiers, which is in effect, a dress rehearsal for the I-League itself.
"There has been a lot of hard work and out of the box thinking to bring football back onto the field in India. In fact, we are the first sports body to bring sports back in India as well (with the IPL being played in the UAE). The ongoing pandemic has thrown a lot of unique problems our way and has also demanded a lot of unique solutions from us as a result," Dhar said.
"We had a few guidelines from the AFC as well as FIFA, both of whom were involved. The Korean league was the first one in Asia to begin and based on the guidelines given to us by the AFC, we came up with comprehensive and detailed SoPs to ensure that we could start the leagues in India as well."
Dhar continued, "People are currently watching European football. Many people in India have been watching the Premier League, the La Liga, and the Bundesliga and now we would like to get them to watch the I-League as well. We thank the AIFF and the IFA (Indian Football Association) for their help. It has been a combined effort to bring football to the field in India."
The AIFF bio-bubble
Speaking of bio-bubbles, Dhar went on to state that the safety of the players was of extreme importance. He also went on to state that this would probably have a psychological impact on the players. However, sacrifices will most certainly have to be made to have a safe and secure I-League.
"Each player has to undergo two RTPCR tests before entering the hotel. If the tests are positive, then they will be able to enter their rooms. Following this, there will be tests administered to the players every five days to make sure that the bio-bubble is secure."
He added, "Those who test positive for COVID will be isolated on a separate floor with food given to them. There will also be separate elevators for players along with separate dining rooms and floors within the hotels as well. Nobody outside the bubble can meet or interact with any of the I-League players or staff within the bubble."