AIFF hopeful of starting 2020-21 season in September or October

On March 15, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) suspended all major footballing tournaments including I-League and the various youth leagues following a directive from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Live-action is yet to resume, but AIFF general secretary Kushal Das is hopeful that the Indian football season can restart in October. 

"The Ministry of Sports has given us guidelines on training and has allowed sports to resume without spectators. But I believe that team sports and contact sports will take some time to resume. We have the U17 Women's World Cup in February 2021 and we would like to start training as soon as possible. Then we have AFC U16 Championship in September. But AFC has not yet postponed the dates but I am hopeful they will do it. 

"The Indian football season usually starts around September. Hopefully, we can start the season with no spectators or limited spectators (as per directives from the government). We are still a few months away. But I am hopeful that the situation will improve and we can start the season in either September or October," stated the administrator during a webinar conducted by SPIA Asia. 

Das informed that the federation is working closely with FIFA to help out the clubs in these rough times. It is likely that in the upcoming months the AIFF can announce a slew of measures that will benefit all the stakeholders of Indian football. 

"Clubs are wondering and a little worried about how to cope with the situation. We have allowed them flexibility regarding player contracts. We have given them the opportunity to mutually discuss and come to a conclusion about the player contracts that are coming to an end on May 31, as our season also ends from May 31. It is not going to be easy as there is a legal issue. We have also allowed the clubs to pay the new players from the season start date instead of the date that they have they have signed. But again, it has to be agreed mutually. Moreover, we are also trying to look to giving direct support to the clubs along with FIFA. But that is work in progress."

India is set to participate in the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup in February 2021 as the host nation. Although Das is confident that all the five venues will be ready by then, he thinks that the blanket lockdown due to the Coronavirus crisis has hampered the preparation of the players. 

"Unfortunately, our preparation for the U17 World Cup has been affected. There are two new venues, namely Odisha and Ahmedabad. There are travel restrictions as well across the world, which might pose difficulty in bringing our Swedish coach back to India. Hopefully, we can start the camp in September. The coach feels we should be okay if we are able to start by September. But the exposure trips may not happen very soon or may not happen at all. Therefore, we might host a competition here in India by inviting foreign teams who are willing to come and play," he stated.