Two footballers test positive for COVID-19 ahead of I-League Qualifiers

The national federation, AIFF, did not disclose the names of the players who are being kept under “medical supervision” in an isolated environment.

The I-League Qualifiers are slated to kick off in Kolkata on October 8. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)

Two players tested positive for COVID 19 as the city geared up to host the first competitive sports event in the country amid the pandemic - the I-League Qualifiers.

A statement from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said that a player each from FC Bengaluru United and Bhawanipore FC have tested positive and have been put in a “quarantine environment” on Thursday.

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“All appropriate medical support is being given to the teams, and the players who tested positive are under medical supervision in a quarantined environment as required by the safety measures and COVID-19 protocols put in place for the tournament,” read the AIFF statement, which did not name the players. More than 150 players, support staff and officials are putting up in a five-star hotel near Salt Lake Stadium, which is one of the two venues for the tournament starting on October 8.

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The other venue is Kalyani, which is on the outskirts.

A lot of hopes are pinned on the tournament that is going to act as a template for those who are looking to resume sports in the country. With the Government allowing sports activities since September 21 as a part of the unlock procedure, the AIFF initiative is likely to play an important role.

Five teams — Mohammedan Sporting, Bhawanipore FC (both Kolkata outfits), ARA FC (Ahmedabad), FC Bengaluru United and Garhwal FC (Delhi) — will be competing for the lone berth reserved for the main tournament. “A successful conduct of this tournament will also provide a case study and help us in organising the I-league, which will be held in different venues in the city and its outskirts later this year,” says I-League CEO, Sunando Dhar.

The AIFF has created the necessary bio-bubble, a new mandate for every sport that looks to resume after the pandemic, and the participants have safely made it to the secured atmosphere in the hotel which has been closed to the ‘outsiders’.

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“We have allowed only registered players, support staff and officials who have twice tested negative in the RTPCR test for COVID-19. Similar testing process will be repeated after every four days till the end of the tournament, which is a prime requirement in securing the bio-bubble,” Dhar said. “Initially the teams are being put in a protective quarantine of four days where no one can venture out of their rooms. There will be another round of tests before players are cleared for training and practice,” he informed.

Three out of the five teams have started practicing on Thursday to get in shape for the 12-day tournament, which will see 10 matches in a round-robin format. The Kalyani Stadium will be hosting six matches while the Salt Lake Stadium will host four matches.

Irrespective of its status as a qualifier, the AIFF has made the best of arrangements for the participants. Apart from securing their stay in one of the best hotels in the city, the teams are given world-class practice facilities in the Salt Lake Stadium complex to prepare for the event. Special buses have been arranged to take the teams to Kalyani Stadium in a bio-secure atmosphere, informed the I-League CEO.

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