One of Indian football's most prestigious league tournaments, the I-League, began with a lot of fanfare and excitement in December 2021. However, after two matchdays, excitement levels of fans came crashing down as the coronavirus positive cases began to rise after a reported 'bio-bubble breach'.
The tournament was being held in a secure bio-bubble in Kolkata amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The organisers of the league had to suspend the competition temporarily after the development. The organizers "unanimously decided to postpone the Hero I-League 2021-22 matches for the next round which were scheduled on December 30-31, 2021," the AIFF said in a statement.
Parallels with Indian Premier League
The last season of the Indian Premier League saw the competition being held in a secure bio-bubble in India as well. However, after three weeks of proper organisation with strict adherence to the protocols, the bio-bubble saw a breach. Eventually, the league was suspended due to rising cases and the rest of the competition had to be completed in the UAE.
"IPL, inspite of getting positive cases, continued, till the number of cases went up. We started to postpone the league on the first day the number of cases started coming, because we wanted to prioritize the safety of the players," I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told The Bridge.
It is worth mentioning that the previous season of the I-League was successfully organised under restrictions.
According to sources, the training ground and floors of the team hotels were not only accessible to the members of the bio-bubble. They added that a Christmas event at a team hotel might have led to the breach. Eight players from Real Kashmir FC, who were housed in Novotel Hotel, tested positive.
"There are people like groundsmen, photographers and managers of teams who are in the outer bubble when such a league is organized. Even they are tested everyday. We followed the same process as last time. Our bio-bubble has been taken as a model by FIFA, AFC and the Bengal cricket board," an AIFF official told The Bridge.
"All players, staff, and referees have already been tested today, and will be tested again on January 1 and January 3, 2022 respectively. The League will review the situation once all test results come in on January 4, 2022, and reach a consensus thereafter including the next round matches on Jan 4-5," said the AIFF release.