The I-League football tournament was suspended on Wednesday for at least a week after eight players and three officials tested positive for COVID-19 despite living and playing in the bio-bubble. Five players of Real Kashmir FC (RKFC) and three team officials, one each from Mohammad Sporting, Aizawl FC and Srinidhi Deccan FC have tested positive on Tuesday.
I-League president Subrata Dutta told PTI after the emergency meeting, “The schedule of the matches for the next round (December 30 and 31) will be changed. We will review the situation on January 4. The first round matches were played on Sunday and Monday while the third round matches were to be held on January 4 and 5. Srinidhi Deccan, Mohammedan Sporting, Neroca FC and Aizawl FC were to play the matches on Thursday while RKFC’s next match was on Friday. All these matches will now be played later. There was no match on Wednesday.
According to sources in the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the chances of the matches scheduled for January 4 are slim but if there are no more positive cases then the matches can be held on January 5. The I-League said in a statement that all the players found positive are on quarantine and AIFF is monitoring them and getting medical advice regularly. These cases of Corona have come from the Novotel Hotel, which the organizers have made one of three bio bubbles of the Football League that started on Sunday. Apart from RKFC, Srinidhi Deccan and Mohammedan Sporting, teams from Rajasthan United, Aizawl FC and Neroca have also stayed in this hotel.
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Dutta presided over the emergency virtual meeting of the I-League committee in which it was decided to suspend the league. “The Committee has unanimously decided to postpone the next round of I-League 2021-22 which was to be held on 30 and 31 December 2021,” the league said in a statement. “After the results of all tests are out, the league will review the situation on January 4, 2022 and then a consensus will be reached on the next round of matches, which will also include the matches on January 4 and 5,” the statement said.
The league committee said that they would seriously consider the advice of Dr. Harsh Mahajan, member of the AIFF’s sports medicine committee, so that the health of the players is not compromised and it remains a top priority. Earlier, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar, while confirming the arrival of the Kovid case, said that the safety of players and officials is paramount. This year 13 teams are participating in the I-League and the matches are being held at three venues Mohun Bagan Ground in Kolkata, Kalyani Stadium in Kalyani and Naihati Stadium in Naihati.
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RKFC owner Sandeep Chattoo admitted that some of his players have tested positive but did not specify how many players have contracted the infection. He said, ‘Yes, there have been some positive cases in RKFC also, players from all (six) teams are suspected to be infected. But the league organizers or AIFF have not informed us officially till now. Sandeep said, ‘There was a test round on December 21 and all my players were negative. These latest tests took place yesterday. He said that some matches may be postponed but expressed hope that the I-League will continue.
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There is no schedule to organize any match in the I-League on Wednesday. Srinidhi Deccan, Mohammedan Sporting, Neroca FC and Aizawl FC are scheduled to play on Thursday while RKFC will next play on Friday. All players and officials will have to stay in isolation in their hotels for six days. He will be tested twice during these six days.