AIFF may be left with no option but to cancel all leagues

PANAJI: The whole Indian Football Federation ( AIFF ) said football is getting harder to play again this season, with cancellations from all leagues likely later this week.

Like everything else, soccer activities have stagnated in India for almost a month. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to announce Tuesday that the 21-day national shutdown will be extended for an additional two weeks, weak hopes that football will return this season are almost over.

It looks very difficult (for football) but let's wait for the Prime Minister's announcement and then the I-League committee can take a call, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told TOI on Monday.

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Last week, Das, along with senior officials from 13 other national sports federations, held a conference call with sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya where he made it clear that camps cannot even be organized until June-July.

The camps would normally have between 30 and 35 participants, so the message for soccer was loud and clear. Any competitive football match, even if it is played behind closed doors, such as Indian Super League ( ISL ) Final: You would need a minimum of 70 people, something unlikely to be allowed before May 31 when the season ends.

We were told these are difficult times. Even if the restrictions are lifted after April 30, there is no guarantee that sports activities will be allowed, Das said.

The AIFF won't blink an eye before canceling the I-League. There are a minimum of four rounds to be played, but with Mohun Bagan With crowned champions and no continental offer for runners-up, there is little at stake.

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If the league is canceled, the prize money would be divided between the second and third teams, and the next three. No team would be relegated to the second division.

Still at the group stage, the second division I-League is a little bit complicated. According to sources, the AIFF is expected to offer a solution of playing a qualifying tournament before next season's ILeague with teams that could have qualified for the finals this season.

Mohammedan Sporting, Garhwal FC, ARA FC and Bengaluru United could be handed the chance of playing the qualifiers somewhere in August with the top-placed team playing the I-League two months later. At this stage, we cannot declare the second division as null and void. Teams have invested heavily and for them, the only reward is promotion to the I-League. We hope the clubs will come to an agreement, said another AIFF official .

This season has a record number of 17 teams participating in the second division, but nine of those are reserve teams of ISL and I-League, who cannot move to a different tier. Second division teams who will play the (I-League) 'qualifiers' will be allowed to register new players, just like what happens in the AFC Cup.

The youth leagues - sub junior (under-13), junior (under-15) and elite (under-18) - are also incomplete. The playoffs and final round is yet to be played. Those leagues could be least of AIFF 's worries. In fact, with so much fear over the coronavirus pandemic, parents are unlikely to allow their children to travel and play.

The I-League committee will meet later this week to make a final decision.

WHATS NEXT?



I-League: Mohun Bagan already champions, no relegation and split prize money.

Second Division I-League: AIFF will recommend teams to play a 'qualifier' ahead of I-League next season. Qualifying league likely in August with teams who would have now made it to the final phase.

Junior leagues: With the safety of young players as the main concern, the leagues would be declared null and void.

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