Junior football teams the current priority for AIFF

With the Indian football season not scheduled to begin until late October, the AIFF is focussing solely on the return of the women’s U-17 team and the boys U-16 team to the training camp.

AIFF

The AIFF has decided to host a Futsal Championship ahead of the next season of Indian football.   -  AIFF

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is playing the waiting game as it seeks further details regarding the resumption of training. The MHA guideline issued on Sunday stated sports stadiums in the country could be opened without spectators, but the various restrictions in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus makes it a tricky situation.

With the Indian football season not scheduled to begin until late October, the AIFF is focussing solely on the return of the women’s U-17 team and the boys U-16 team to the training camp in Goa.

The women’s team, coached by Swede Thomas Dennerby, is preparing for its greatest challenge so far. The side will make its World Cup debut when India hosts the Women’s FIFA U-17 World Cup between February 17 and March 7 next year.  

READ | Sports Ministry allows resumption of training, NSFs await further details

Bibiano Fernandes' U-16 men’s team also has a busy period ahead as it prepares for the 2020 AFC U-16 Championship. Notably, the Indian team had topped the group in the qualifiers. The top four teams from the AFC U-16 Championship will be awarded spots at the 2021 FUFA U-17 Men’s World Cup in Peru.

“The junior teams are the focus, but we are still waiting for exact the guidelines. There is also the question of travel of the players (from various parts of the country) and that of the arrival of the coach from Sweden. These are a few issues we have and we will take it as it comes,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told Sportstar.

He added, “Everything is still very uncertain owing to travel restrictions and it depends on the further guidelines the government will give for sporting events.”

READ | Coach Dennerby impressed by India U-17 girls' hard work during lockdown

Inter-state travel has been restricted at the moment and the AIFF will be able to push for the resumption of camps only once these restrictions are lifted, or if the players are given special permission to travel. The fact that the players are all minors and will most likely require a parent/guardian to travel with them makes the issue a little more complicated.

- Futsal Championship to begin next season -

The AIFF has decided to host a Futsal Championship as a curtain-raiser ahead of the next season of Indian football.

“We want to kick off the next season with a Futsal League in Meghalaya. We are requesting the states that have a Futsal league to conduct it so that the winner can play here and have also asked Indian Super League, I-League teams, and second division teams to come up,” said Das.

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The tournament will be the latest addition to the Indian football calendar, he added. “We’ll have to start off and hopefully it should become more structured in terms of all states organising the league and their winners playing in the Futsal Championship,” he said.  

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