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I-League Qualifier 2020 — All you need to know

I-League Qualifier 2020 — All you need to know

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 17 Sep 2020 9:12 AM GMT

After months, the Indian football season is set to resume amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The qualifier for the 2020-21 season of the I-League will be played out between 8 and 19 October at two venues in West Bengal, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed on Wednesday. The venues in question are the Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata and the Kalyani Stadium, some 50km from Kolkata proper. Here is all you need to know:

Participating Teams & Format

The tournament, which will mark the return of professional football in the country at any level, will feature 5 teams in the form of ARA FC, FC Bengaluru United, Mohammedan SC, Garhwal FC and Bhawanipore FC. The teams will face each other once in a round robin format with the table toppers after matchday 5 qualifying for the I-League.


The Indian Football Association (IFA), which is the governing body for football in West Bengal, have been granted hosting rights of the tournament after AIFF Leagues CEO Sunando Dhar made a personal trip to both the venues to check on the facilities available and the protocols put in place to ensure maximum safety for players and supporting staff. IFA Secretary Joydeep Mukherjee has confirmed that the association will leave no stone unturned to ensure the seamless management of the tournament after positive talks with the state government regarding health and safety procedures. All personnel will be kept in a bio-bubble with routine testing conducted on them in accordance with best practice methods.

The Favourites & the Dark Horses

One team that has already had a taste of things to come is Mohammedan Sporting. The 130-year-old legacy club is trying to make its way back into the national fold after years of irrelevance and have been training in Kalyani in a bio-bubble for the past three weeks. Newly appointed head coach Yan Law has made wholesale changes to his squad with some exciting recruitments like Willis Plaza and Eze Kingsley amongst others. The club hierarchy would be hoping that the team can qualify for the I-League after six long years in the I-League 2nd division.

ARA FC would be strong contenders to qualify as well after a strong showing in the 2nd division I-League last season. The Ahmedabad-based side were top of the table in group C with 14 points in 7 matches when the pandemic brought the league to a halt. With promising players in their ranks like Syed Shoaib Ahmed and Dieye Hamidou, the team will be hopeful of making it to the I-League for the upcoming season. Like ARA FC, 2nd division side Garhwal FC also had a promising start to their campaign with 14 points in group A from their first 7 games. The team aims to retain its Indian core and add an overseas player in their ranks as they try to compete for a place in the I-League. With Ekta, Shaurya, Vijay as the club motto, one should not discount their chances of springing a surprise or two next month as they aim to reach the next level in Indian football.

Another Kolkata-based outfit, Bhawanipore FC would be looking to represent Bengal in the national arena with a bunch of promising youngsters coming through in the side. Coach Sankarlal Chakraborty, who has also managed Mohun Bagan previously, is optimistic of his team’s chances against more fancied opponents and feels that although his players are slightly behind the 8-ball in terms of fitness, they would be ready and raring to go by the time the qualifiers kick off.

Last but certainly not the least, FC Bengaluru United would definitely be one of the favourites for the qualifiers after assembling a good side and adopting a free-flowing style of play that saw them accumulate 14 points from 8 games in group C, just behind ARA FC. Former India international and head coach Gourmangi Singh has a healthy mix of local talent and overseas players at his disposal and would be looking forward to making a good impression just 2 years into his coaching career.


October 8, 2020: Bhawanipore FC vs FC Bengaluru United, YBK Stadium

October 8, 2020: Mohammedan SC vs Garhwal FC

October 11, 2020: Mohammedan SC vs ARA, YBK Stadium

October 11, 2020: Garhwal FC vs FC Bengaluru United, Kalyani Stadium

October 14, 2020: Garhwal FC vs Bhawanipore FC, YBK Stadium

October 14, 2020: FC Bengaluru United vs ARA, Kalyani Stadium

October 16, 2020: ARA vs Garhwal FC Kalyani Stadium, Kalyani Stadium

October 16, 2020: Bhawanipore FC vs Mohammedan SC, Kalyani Stadium

October 19, 2020: FC Bengaluru United vs Mohammedan SC, YBK Stadium

October 19, 2020: ARA vs Bhawanipore FC, Kalyani Stadium

All in all, the qualifiers promise to be an exciting curtain raiser for the season with bigger tournaments in the horizon and is set to be a perfect examination of how prepared the AIFF and state federations are in combating the threat of coronavirus in the months to come.

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