I-League suspended for six weeks after fresh COVID outbreak

The I-League winners' trophy. AIFF Media

The I-League was on Monday suspended for at least six weeks by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after a fresh COVID-19 outbreak hit the participating teams inside the bio-bubble in Kolkata.

It has been learnt that the total number of COVID-19 cases now stands at 45 after the latest round of tests which prompted the AIFF to suspend the league for six weeks. "The League Committee, abiding consensus of all participating clubs as per the suggestion of Dr Harsh Mahajan (member of AIFF Sports Medical Committee) ratified the decision to postpone the ongoing Hero I-League 2021-22 for at least 6 weeks," the AIFF said in a release. They will have a review meeting after four weeks to take stock of the situation.

The health protocols of the bio-bubble will continue till January 7, as all teams will be tested again on Wednesday. The teams can travel back to their respective destinations once they are tested negative.

Players and officials, who have tested positive in the team hotels and have already been isolated, will be treated and quarantined in Kolkata as per the health parameters laid down. They will be allowed to leave the bio-bubble after they test negative.

"The omicron variant spreads very fast but also comes down very rapidly. We also need to take account and consider the government regulations and policies," Mahajan said, giving hope of resumption of the I-League after the situation gets better. Mahajan informed the clubs and the AIFF about the rising number of cases in the country, the new COVID-19 norms and restrictions being implemented by West Bengal government.

"The AIFF did their best under the circumstances and helped the players and officials in the best possible way. We appreciate their efforts," Real Kashmir owner Sandeep Chattoo told PTI.

On December 29, I-League was suspended for a week after COVID-19 breached its bio-bubble. Eight players and three officials had tested positive for the dreaded virus, last week. Five players and three team officials from Real Kashmir FC, one player each from Mohammedan Sporting, debutants Sreenidi Deccan FC and Aizawl FC had returned positive.

Thirteen teams are competing in this year's I-League across three venues -- the Mohun Bagan Ground in Kolkata, the Kalyani Stadium at Kalyani and the Naihati Stadium at Naihati.

Only six matches of the I-League season have been played so far -- on December 26 and 27 -- before it was suspended.