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Hero I-League returns with “fresh and rejuvenated” players ahead of restart

Hero I-League 2021-22 (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

The Hero I-League 2021-22 season is set to resume on March 3, 2022 after being temporarily suspended due to a Covid-outbreak. Mr. Sunando Dhar, CEO, Leagues and Development, explained the reasons to halt proceedings in January and looked ahead to the restart.

“It is not easy to stay in a bio bubble, physically and mentally. We understand the problems players face,” said Mr. Dhar. “The option was to have the league in a bio bubble or not have it at all. We conducted the previous edition of the Hero I-League successfully but this year, due to the nature of the Omicron variant, we had to take this decision.”

Mr. Dhar is confident that the break has helped the players recharge their batteries and looking forward to getting back onto the field of play.

“The players have returned rejuvenated and fresh. It was not ideal to have a break after the start of the season but as only one game was played rather than half the season, I don’t think it will have that big an impact,” he said.

The call to suspend the Hero I-League temporarily was taken after consulting Padma Shri Dr. Harsh Mahajan, Member of AIFF’s Sports Medical Committee.

“About 40 of the players were infected in one hotel and a few players in the other. Overall, in the country and in Kolkata itself, there was an increase in cases and also government mandates were due to come in,” explained Dr. Mahajan. “So, keeping in mind the welfare of the players and the staff, we decided that it would not be right to continue operating and a decision was taken to suspend the league temporarily and postpone it for 6-8 weeks.”

As part of the new precautionary measures, all teams took three tests before entering a hard quarantine of 7 days wherein they underwent three more tests. The hotel and stadium staff are also being tested on a regular basis and Dr. Mahajan has no qualms in being overcautious this time round.

“If we look at the advisory of the Health Ministry, the states have been asked to open up and I think we are in the right position to do so in a graded manner. We have extended the quarantine period by 2 days and also asked for more tests prior to entering the bio bubble,” he said.

(AIFF Media)