The newer clubs getting into the I-League hold the future of Indian football, said the general secretary of All India Football Federation, Kushal Das. His comments came ahead of the launch of the I-League, which gets underway at different venues in and around Kolkata from Saturday.
“The clubs will have to find the method to sustain themselves and as the parent body we can support them, this is the phenomenon everywhere in the world. I believe some of the new clubs that are coming in like Sudeva FC of Delhi or Sreenidhi FC (Visakhapatnam) have the sustainable model. The newer clubs are much smarter and understand that while it is important to get into the top league it is also essential to find out the ways to sustain themselves,” the AIFF secretary said. “We may not be worth even one percent of BCCI’s total worth of Rs. 14000 crore. But Indian football is rising and we hope to get there sometime. The newer clubs which are coming in are prepared to go the distance,” Das added.
The I-League, which from this season effectively becomes the second tier to the Indian Super League, will have 11 teams contesting for the title and a spot in the AFC Cup group stages. The league will be played in a bio-secure bubble with all the players, officials and match supervisors following the specified COVID-19 protocols.
“The Hero I-League has a nationwide impact on football in India. There are clubs from different parts of the nation and that gives us a unique opportunity for young talent in that area a chance to aspire. It gives them a platform to showcase talent,” Sunando Dhar, the CEO – Leagues, spelt out the new role of the I-league. “The roadmap of Indian football has been accepted by all the stakeholders and we are progressing on that path,” Das added while explaining the League’s new status.
“In all 11 teams are put up in two five-star hotels in the city while the referees and match officials are staying in a third hotel where bio-bubble is being maintained at various levels. The players (a maximum of 30 in a squad) and the team officials had to produce three negative COVID-19 tests before checking into the bio-bubble while two more tests were done after they had spent seven days in isolation in their rooms. In the hotels we have separate floors for the teams, separate elevators and pathways for those in bio-bubble so as to ensure that anyone from outside does not come in close proximity to the players and officials in the bio-bubble. And inside the bio-bubble we have created a medical hub so as to minimize the chance of a player taken to the hospital in case of an injury,” Dhar gave out the details of the I-League bio-bubble.
The AIFF secretary said the federation can consider getting spectators at a later stage when it is certain about the safety of the players and officials. “The health of the players, officials and match supervisors is of paramount importance and so we are not taking any chances even though there are government regulations allowing spectators up to 50 percent of the in stadium’s capacity. We are not going to take any risk. We can consider having crowds at a later stage,” he said.
“There are unprecedented times and the fact that we are able to bring football back is a great effort from all stakeholders involved. We need to pat ourselves on the back to start a football league in India ahead of any other federation. I am looking forward to an entertaining and competitive league,” the AIFF secretary said.
The first match of the Hero I-League kicks-off on January 09, 2021, with Sudeva Delhi FC clashing against Mohammedan SC (at 2.00 PM IST).
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