KOCHI: The 2019-20 I-League campaign had come to a premature end in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, with no certainty over when footballing activities would resume in the country.
While the 7th Indian Super League is scheduled to start in November in Goa, there is no official word yet from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on when the new I-League campaign will get underway.
Amidst all the uncertainty, I-League side Gokulam Kerala FC are hoping that they can begin preparations for next season in earnest by resuming training from the start of next month at their home base at EMS Stadium in Kozhikode.
"From what we know, I think the AIFF (All India Football Federation) is hoping to conduct the tournament from November. I think preparations are being made to have the I-League in Kolkata with all the safety measures in place. Our club has been discussing when would be the right time to start practice and preparations ahead of the new season.
It's not just down to us, and at the same time, the whole team and the coach have to assemble here first and they have to undergo the mandatory quarantine period, and only then can we start practice. Taking everything into consideration, we hope we can have everything sorted by the start of next month. We'll do everything we can," said Gokulam Technical Director Bino George.
The total number of Covid-19 cases reported in Kerala crossed the one-lakh mark in the last few days with the number of fresh cases reported daily showing no signs of slowing down.
However, the club is confident that they can carry out their activities with all the safety and precautions in place as advised by the AIFF and the government.
They also have a club-house which they feel can be used to house all the players during their stay in Kozhikode while monitoring them closely.
A lot of players stayed there for a considerable period of time after they were stranded with the AIFF suspending the league and the country going under lockdown.
Foreign players like Marcus Joseph, Andre Ettienne and Nathaniel Garcia were stuck at the club facility for close to four months before flying out when international flights resumed.
While Gokulam is hoping to re-start training, a major question-mark is on whether these foreign players, who were integral to the team last season can return.
However, the club hopes that their new head coach Vincenzo Annese arrives in Kozhikode by the end of the month.
"Nothing is set in stone in terms of when and how things will happen. We all know that the coronavirus situation in the country is very serious and we have to be extremely cautious and everything is so unpredictable right now. But we can't just sit around and our plan is to at least try and start training from next month because the new coach wanted to see the players before the season starts.
We hope to have all the Indian players available. There is no certainty about the foreigners right now because we don't know when they'll be able to come to India. So nothing has been decided about our foreign recruitment as of now. Some clubs have even decided to do without foreign players but we hope to have some players in," said George.