Greater leeway in I-League to change players – football

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I-League teams will have greater leeway in replacing players during the season, said Sunando Dhar, Leagues CEO of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), at a virtual media meet on Thursday.

For Indian Arrows and debutants Sudeva Delhi FC, teams with an Indians-only roster, there is no bar on the number of players who can be changed, said Dhar. Teams can register a maximum of 30 players, he said. The other nine teams, all of whom have foreigners in their squads, can change three Indians. All changes must happen by February 11.

Prior to the pandemic affected 2020-21 season, teams were not allowed to replace Indian players but could swap three foreigners. Including an Asian player, all teams are allowed four imports.

Dhar also said that to help teams cope with bubble fatigue, both players’ hotels have a separate room which teams can book for their activities. “Depending on how the situation is in Kolkata, we can also book an amusement park nearby for teams to spend a day. It is also possible teams will be taken to cinemas following all health protocols,” said Dhar.

Speaking at the virtual media meet, Kushal Das, the AIFF general secretary, said the leagues roadmap will stay the course. “The I-League champions of 2022-23 and 23-24 will qualify to the ISL (Indian Super League) with relegation and promotion starting in ISL from the following season.

Das said the youth leagues will not be held this season because of logistical challenges involved in organising bio-bubble for so many teams across the country. “Hopefully, if the trend in improvement in containing Covid-19 continues, we can host youth leagues next season (2021-22).”

This season’s I-League begins on Saturday with three games including one between newbies Sudeva Delhi FC and Mohammedan Sporting. Matches will be played in four venues including Salt Lake stadium, Mohun Bagan ground and in Kalyani, some 60km from Kolkata.

2020-21 I-League facts in figures

0: Defending champions because Mohun Bagan have moved to ISL

11: Number of teams.

2: New entrants — Sudeva Delhi FC and 2nd division winners Mohammedan Sporting.

4: Venues — Salt Lake stadium, Kishore Bharati stadium, Mohun Bagan ground, Kalyani stadium

3: Bio-secure hotels for teams and match officials.

80: Total number of games —1st phase: All 11 teams face each other once. Total matches in first phase – 55. 2nd phase: In championship stage, top six teams, who will carry over points from the first phase, will face each other once. Total games in championship stage – 15. In relegation stage, bottom five teams face each other once. Total games in relegation stage – 10.

Rs 18 crore: Approximate budget which, according to AIFF officials, is 50% more than normal. Cost escalation is mainly due to creating bio-bubbles.

1 crore: Winners’ purse. 2nd place: Rs 60 lakh. 3rd place: Rs 40 lakh. 4th place: Rs 25 lakh.

50,000: For every match a team wins

25,000: Player of the Match award.

11,000: Number of Covid-19 tests during the competition.

January 9: Competition starts

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