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AIFF guidelines for resuming training framed using best practices from multiple institutions

Training sessions are conducted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the All India Football Federation. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Training sessions are conducted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the All India Football Federation. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

While the training camps for the Indian Arrows and the Indian U-16 boys have already resumed, the Indian women’s senior national team are all set to start their sessions in Goa from December 1 onwards. The sessions are being held for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown, and are being conducted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

An exhaustive Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been prescribed by Indian senior national team doctor Dr Shervin Sheriff, which covers in detail various requirements and protocols that are to be put in place in order to resume training after the pandemic.

Dr Sheriff said: “The guidelines have been formed using the best practices from various esteemed organizations. The base was formed using the protocols issued by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and we adjusted our SOP according to the requirements of football with the help of guidelines issued by FIFA and AFC.”

“Additionally, we have taken inputs from the guidelines followed by different leagues that had resumed initially, such as the German Bundesliga and the K-League in South Korea, along with other institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Australian Institute of Sport,” he added.

The SOP mandates that incoming players and support staff at training camps must get a COVID test (RT-PCR) done prior to their departure from home on Day minus 3 of travel and proceed to travel with necessary precautions if the result is negative.

After reaching, a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) is to be done and if it is negative, they can proceed to their respective rooms for seven days of room quarantine. After successful quarantine without any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, they have to be tested for RT-PCR on Day 8 after arrival before joining the training.

Dr Sheriff mentioned that a challenging aspect of preparing the SOP was anticipating the various circumstances that can arise, with COVID-19 posing threats never seen before.

“We did not have any previous experience with such a situation or making such guidelines and had to think of and anticipate different circumstances that may take place. In that aspect, the FIFA and AFC guidelines along with those from various global leagues were very helpful,” he averred.

“Another challenge was planning the testing for all players and staff members, with different protocols being followed in different states across India. The guidelines for managing someone who tests positive have to be written with much care and consideration as well.”

According to the SOP, the resumption of the camp shall be in compliance with the guidelines laid down by the local authorities and training should take place in a staged fashion. The thermal screening will be conducted before each training session and weekly check-up and monitoring are mandatory. All areas within the training and accommodation premises shall be disinfected at regular intervals.

The document also lays down in detail various protocols to be followed while arriving for training, during training, using the gymnasium, medical room and accommodation facility.

As players join the camp after a long spell of being at home, Dr Sheriff stated that ‘de-training’ will be an important factor and that special care and focus is needed with regards to the mental health of the players, which has been provided for in the AIFF guidelines.

“De-training is a factor as it was not possible for players to train at the full level at their homes and there will be ranging fitness levels. As a result, there will be an increased risk of injury, which must be managed. There might be players who may need to be given special attention and tailor-made programmes as well,” he said.

“Mental health is a very important aspect of the players returning to football and it is not easy being in quarantine, especially for young players. The guidelines prescribe the formation of a COVID task force, which has medical staff and other members from the team. They have to talk to each player every day, support them and help them keep a positive frame of mind.”

(Shraishth Jain / AIFF Media)