I-League trophy

Indian football: I-League 2020-21 matches to be held in West Bengal?

With the uncertainty over the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, The All India Football Federation (AIFF) are likely to conduct the entire I-League 2020-21 season at one particular venue, Goal can confirm.

Considering the rapid spread of the virus in India, it should not come as a surprise that the AIFF and the league organisers of the I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) have adopted a similar strategy for the 2020-21 season which could begin in November tentatively.

The ISL are looking to conduct the competition at a centralised venue, with Goa the most likely hosts and Kerala the back-up option.

Indian Football Association (IFA), the governing body of football in West Bengal, though, are keen to host the matches in Kolkata. The IFA secretary Joydeep Mukherjee told Goal that they are ready to host I-League matches.

The IFA secretary also mentioned that there are five to six venues in West Bengal which are ready to host the matches namely, the Kalyani Stadium, Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Barasat and many more. The Kishore Bharati Stadium in Jadavpur, Kolkata is also getting refurbished and could be ready when the new season commences.

The Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake) might not be used as a venue for the I-League because it is one of the venues for the 2020 U17 Women's World Cup which starts in February 2021.

An increased travelling for matches and diversity in the number of stadiums used for the tournament makes it difficult to contain the spread of the virus.

UEFA had confirmed that Estadio da Luz and Estadio Jose Alvalade, home to Benfica and Sporting respectively will play host to the single-legged games in the subsequent rounds. There will be no changes in venues for the remaining games from the Round-of-16.

Even the Qatar Stars League (QSL) has adopted this format to finish their league off. The rest of the rounds in QSL will be played in three stadiums. Numerous other leagues, including the Chinese Super League (CSL) and Australia's A-League are mulling over a short tournament at neutral venues.

More importantly, any tournament or camp in the coming months will need to follow a standard operating procedure (SOP), much like what leagues in Europe are currently doing in order to ensure the virus doesn't spread. A compact tournament at a reduced number of venues will help the organisers implement the SOPs required to maintain safety and health of players.

According to the SOPs, sanitising the venues and training area is paramount and so is testing the players for Covid-19 every week. It is a costly undertaking but something that cannot be avoided.