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ISL 2020-21: No spectators, no foreigners? How will coronavirus impact Indian football

ISL 2020-21: No spectators, no foreigners? How will coronavirus impact Indian football


Published: 15 April 2020 7:00 AM GMT

A month has passed since the last competitive football match was played in India, the coronavirus pandemic has coerced us to live in a time of force majeure — where circumstances, which have a massive impact on the life we've come to know, are beyond our control.

Sport gradually has closed down, when it will all return is a million dollar question. Even the leader of Tokyo’s effort to stage the postponed Olympic Games has acknowledged that the coronavirus might eventually preclude the event from being held next year.

FIFA, the world governing body for football, already has called off international matches that were due to be played in March and June. In fact, they have conceded that international football might not return until 2021.

However, despite football's postponement and the uncertainty over the future, Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League clubs are still working on potential new arrivals and departures during the transfer window ahead of the upcoming season. East Bengal, Mumbai City FC, ATK-Mohun Bagan are a few who have already made big moves in the transfer market.

But, truth be told, at this stage it is hard to glean just what impact the pandemic will have on the upcoming season and even the relative stakeholders cannot fathom how the land will lie going ahead. As such, speculations are rife that, at least for the first half of the season, all matches might be played behind closed doors.


Also, because of the pandemic, many countries and regions have imposed entry bans, or other restrictions for citizens of or recent travellers to the most affected areas. Other countries and regions have imposed global restrictions that apply to all foreign countries and territories, or prevent their own citizens from travelling overseas.

There is no clarification on when these bans will be lifted which means there is a likelihood that foreigners, at least from some parts of the world, might not be a part of Indian football next season.

An ISL club official, who did not wish to be named, told The Bridge, “Indeed, the future remains uncertain but some things are more important than football. If worse comes to worst, we are prepared to play with only Indian footballers but playing behind closed doors will be tough. Football is a spectator sport and without fans, I don’t know how it will all work out. This ISL final was the worst, with no fans it felt like a practice match, the players did not know with whom to celebrate after winning the trophy.”

It is understood that the league has been told that these are difficult times and there is no guarantee when things will get back to normal. Consequently, all possible situations and scenarios have been discussed internally.

There will be economic and financial impacts as well but to what extent, it can’t be said yet.

How everything will pan out, only time can tell.

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