Fate of I-League hangs in balance, decision after completion of 21-day lockdown

The resumption of the suspended I-League is “difficult” in the prevailing situation arising out of COVID-19 pandemic and a decision on its fate will be taken after the completion of the 21-day national lockdown, an national federation official said on Wednesday.

The I-League was suspended on March 14 with four rounds to play though Mohun Bagan have already clinched the title.

“It’s difficult for I-League to resume. Chances are 50-50. At least one and half month is needed for the tournament to finish. We will take a call after meeting with the stakeholders. The meeting will take place after April 15,” an official of the All India Football Federation told PTI on condition of anonymity.

The return leg match of the high-profile Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal is among the 28 matches that are left to be played as the AIFF is currently having a wait-and-watch policy with the 21-day nationwide lockdown in force.

While there is little at stake for Mohun Bagan, there’s a three-way race among East Bengal, Minerva Punjab (both with 23 points from 16 matches) and Real Kashmir (22 points from 15 matches) for the runners-up slot.

“Life comes first, then football or any other form of entertainment. It’s difficult for us to comment on resumption on the I-League, East Bengal top official Debabrata Sarkar said.

“Definitely no football lover would want a national tournament to be cancelled but it’s a global pandemic now. We have to see and act according to the situation,” he added.

Both the arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have issues to deal with as their Spanish coaches and foreign players want to return home.

East Bengal have five Spaniards, including coach Mario Rivera, along with Jhonny Acosta (Costa Rica) and Kassim Aidara (Sengal) who are stuck in India due to the lockdown.

Mohun Bagan have six foreign players (Fran Morante, Fran Gonzalez, Joseba Beitia from Spain along with Daniel Cyrus of Trinidad, Baba Diawara of Senegal and Komron Turunov of Tajikistan) and coach Kibu Vicuna who are now holed up here.

Former champions Aizawl FC are currently in the relegation zone but four of their remaining five matches are at slated at home.

Aizawl had travelled to Punjab for a closed-door match on March 14 before the league was suspend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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