KOCHI: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) were the first sports federation in the country to organise an event post the nationwide lockdown when the I-League 2nd Division qualifiers were held in October 2020. Now, they are conducting the I-League.
With the Indian Women's League, Inaugural Futsal Championship and I-League 2nd Division qualifiers set to follow, the authorities are planning for a challenging few months ahead.
The key factor here is that they are better prepared to ride the wave, unlike last year when things looked uncertain.
"At that point in time, it was a clean slate for us because we didn't know or have anything to understand the situation. We had to create a base. I attended a couple of workshops from AFC with the leagues that they had started in countries like South Korea and Qatar. There was also the AFC Champions League. AFC had also organised workshops about the SOPs and other procedures that they had put in place. Though it was a 27-day event (I-League 2nd Division qualifiers), that taught us a lot of things. About what needs to be put in place for 100-plus days of I-League event," I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told this daily.
"This was a 24x7 operation to ensure that the bio-bubble is maintained properly. That was a huge challenge. But in the last three months, there has not been a single positive case. The clubs understood the difficulties that the AIFF was facing and they did follow the rules which helped us. We also had to spend 60% more than what we would do in a normal season," said Dhar.
Special attention was given to sanitising the practice grounds (eight of them), teambuses and four stadiums while ensuring that tests are done not only for the players and officials but for the staff, bus drivers, stadium authorities and hotel staff who were serving to the players.
These steps were meticulously done every four to five days.
The league will draw to a close on March 27 with attention shifting to the Women's League which is scheduled for next month. It is a busy calendar as the AFC Champions League Group E matches, Bengaluru FC's AFC Cup engagements are also set to follow.
"We just can't sit and say that due to the spikes we won't do events," Dhar added.