The I-League Makes it Most Awaited Return
The I-League, one of the most prominent soccer tournaments in India, will resume on 3rd of March 2022, two months after a break due to a deadly disease inside its bio-bubble, according to recent I-League news from the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The isolated facility would resume operations on 20th February, and COVID-19 standards would be in place to safeguard the players and officials. After the COVID-19 outbreak struck the participating teams on 3rd January, the AIFF decided to put the I-League on hold.
More soccer news reports confirm that 45 COVID-19 cases hit the league, necessitating the AIFF to suspend the tournament for at least six weeks. “The Hero I-League will continue as usual, with matches taking place inside a bubble starting 20th February and players and officials need to pass three negative RT-PCR tests before entering,” according to an AIFF statement.
The players and team officials will have to serve seven days in quarantine once they’ve entered the venue. The players and officials will operate from within the bio-bubble and attend training sessions, meals, team meetings, and matches after passing three negative RT-PCR tests in quarantine.
“We had halted the league because we wanted to ensure the safety of the players and officials and did not want COVID-19 to spread,” AIFF Leagues CEO Sunando Dhar said. I have talked with all of them, and they are all eager, looking forward to the restart,” he added. After receiving clearance from various authorities and obtaining Dr Harsh Mahajan’s approval, the officials feel that now is the best time to restart the season after COVID-19 positivity rates drop.
The I-League season started last 26th and 27th of December and completed six matches. COVID-19 breached its bio-bubble last year, causing the league to be out for a week. Eight players and three officials have been diagnosed with the virus. With the restart, there will be no modification in the I-League format. The 13 teams will compete against one another in a round-robin system for the first time in the initial round.
Following the first round, the teams will be in two groups. The top seven teams in Group A will compete for the championship title, while Group B will feature the bottom six clubs and compete for promotion. In the second round, each club will play their group members once in a round-robin format at three different sites: Kalyani Municipal Stadium, Naihati Stadium, and Mohun Bagan Ground.
The I-League is home to several excellent players. Established stars such as Fran Gonzalez (Real Kashmir), Willis Plaza (Aizawl FC) and others will appear on the field. Joining them will be a plethora of new faces, including Nikola Stojanovic (Mohammedan SC), Marcelinho (Rajsthan United), David Castaneda (Sreenidhi Deccan FC), and others.
Moreover, the I-League is likely to be highly unpredictable, especially with three new teams. Furthermore, historically, the competition has been extremely tough to predict, with a different champion nearly every year. Gokulam Kerala FC will need to outdo themselves to retain their title this season.