All sporting activities came to an abrupt halt in India and around the world in mid-March due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Most of India continues to be in lockdown mode and the majority of states are taking things slowly.
While sporting leagues are keen to resume activities and get their players training again, it is not an easy task. The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) decided to take a brave decision and proceed with a training camp in Bengaluru, only to find 6 of its players test positive for COVID-19 a few days later.
ISL Will Play All Matches In Goa
The Indian Super League (ISL) has confirmed that Season 7 will take place from November 2020. ISL plans to take a leaf out of the NBA and NFL’s method of operation by creating a bio-bubble for its players. While the NBA and NFL have created bio-bubbles in multiple cities, the ISL has decided to create a bio-bubble in Goa as the ISL is not a big tournament with a large number of teams.
The Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) decided that Goa was the best state to host the 7th season of the ISL as football is the most popular game in Goa whereas cricket is the number one game in almost all the other states. The FSDL will be using three stadiums in Goa to create a bio-bubble and stage all matches in empty stadiums.
The GMC Athletic Stadium at Bambolim, the Tilak Nagar Stadium at Vasco da Gama and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Fatorda, Margao will be the three stadiums that will host all of the ISL games.
The FDSL was happy to finalize on Goa to host all ISL and have plans to complete a major makeover for all three stadiums in Goa. The makeover will include an upgrade of football pitches, dressing rooms, floodlights, drainage system and all the other infrastructure that comes into play when hosting games.
Nita Ambani, the wife of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani is the founder and chairperson of the FDSL. Nita Ambani said that the FDSL was happy to bring the ISL to passionate football fans in Goa and turn the state into the epicentre of football in India.
Open To Allowing Fans If Situation Improves
Goa is right up there when it comes to the most popular tourist states in India. The state government derives a bulk of its revenue from the tourism industry which has now come to a complete standstill.
The ISL is a great way to promote Goa and boost tourism provided COVID-19 is under control by the end of the year. While the FDSL and ISL have confirmed that the season will proceed without any fans in attendance, the state government has not shut the door on the fans altogether.
Manohar Ajgaonkar, the sports minister in Goa said that if the coronavirus situation was brought under control by October or November, they would consider allowing fans to attend ISL games.
For now, the state government, the FDSL, ISL and the Sports Authority Of Goa will work closely together to ensure that social distancing protocols and bio-bubble restrictions are finalized and made clear to the players, staff and broadcasting team to ensure that the ISL is conducted without any problems.
Ajgaonkar who also heads the tourism department in Goa said the ISL will help the tourism industry in Goa as 500 rooms in multiple hotels have already been booked and will provide much needed revenue to businesses involved in tourism.
The ISL announcement comes on the heels of the announcement made by the All India Football Federation who has decided to create a bio-bubble in Kolkata to stage all games of the I-League.