Home / Football / ‘Safety & human lives of paramount importance’: AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das on roadmap for Indian football amid Covid-19 crisis
The Premier League season has been decided - Liverpool are the champions for the 2019-20 season. Bayern Munich have also bagged the Bundesliga crown for the 8th season in a row. A few months ago, when the novel coronavirus spread throughout Europe, causing the football season to take an abrupt, unexpected break, it seemed that the ongoing season of top European leagues might not be able to see a finish. But with new safety protocols and fresh guidelines, European football has shown a pathway towards the successful and safe resumption of sports amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
But can the same protocols and measures be applied for a safe resumption of football in India as well? The 2019-20 season of domestic football in the country came to an abrupt end in April with table-toppers Mohun Bagan declared winners. Bagan though had put the title on ice having taken an unassailable lead at the top of the table.
The football pre-season in India usually kicks off somewhere around late July or the beginning of August and keeping that in mind, the Hindustan Times spoke to AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das on what steps could be taken to see a safe resumption of the sport in the country amid the ongoing global pandemic.
Q1) What kind of safety measures we can see in place for the players and coaching staff in place when the training and/or pre-season resumes?
Football is a body-contact game and we are closely following the situations worldwide wherever the leagues have resumed. We’re following the directives from the government closely since day one and we’ll continue to do so. Whenever we get the nod from the ministry to kick-off with the proceedings, we’ll do likewise.
Meanwhile, we have already started talks with other stakeholders about how to resume football activities around the country. You have to remember, we have to think about the Golden Baby League at the grassroots level involving children. We have to keep their safety in mind as well.
The SOPs for training are being developed by Mr. Isac Doru, Technical Director in consultation with FIFA and it will be discussed with the Sports Ministry and SAI before implementation.
Q2) Is there a possibility of seeing a few early games of ISL, I-League amid closed doors?
As I have tried to explain we’re following the directives issued by the Ministry. The FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against Qatar has been scheduled by AFC in October. But even that won’t be possible unless we hear from the authorities. We’re monitoring it closely.
Q3) Is there also a possibility of limiting stadiums where the matches could be played?
Depending on the peripheral circumstances, venues, timings will be decided once the situation arises.
Q4) There have been a few changes in European football - the way goals are being celebrated, no. of substitutions, a wider gap between players on the bench, etc. Putting them in the Indian context, what changes in rules can we see in ISL, I-League?
FIFA has suggested five substitutions and suggested a few changes keeping the safety in view. Now, the Indian season is still a few months away, and hopefully, the circumstances will improve by then. Once it does, we’ll take certain measures. Safety and human lives are of paramount importance above all.
Q5) The U17 Women’s FIFA World Cup will take place in India starting next February - How do you think the tournament will help in the growth of promoting Indian football and promoting Women’s Football in India?
The updated match schedule was released two days back. We’re in regular talks with FIFA about the U17 Women’s World Cup which has been postponed to 2021. We have seen how the U17 Men’s World Cup, two years back, has spurted the positivity around football in our country. The Women’s World Cup will also have the same impact on the young girls who aspire to be footballers in the future.
Q6) Is there a concern that the World Cup next year could also be held behind closed doors?
We’re in regular communication with FIFA and other stakeholders with regards to hosting the Women’s World Cup next year. It’s too early to decide whether an event, which is still a few months away from now, will be organised behind closed doors or not. Depending on the directives from FIFA and Ministry, the final decision will be taken.