THE ONGOING COVID-19 PANDEMIC'S effects are already spilling into next season of Indian football, and local football competitions that kick off the season are going to be the first and most affected by it.
Club football in Mizoram, which starts in late June or early July with its popular tournaments like the MFA Super Cup, Independence Day Football Tournament followed by the Mizoram Premier League, are staring at an uncertain fate as the nation grapples with the spread of the virus.
Mizoram has a relatively low coronavirus infection rate as of today. By June 13th, the state had a total of 107 cases, out of which 106 were still active, admitted at the Zoram Medical College. Only 11 of those patients came from the capital Aizawl. Nonetheless, the state government observed the nationwide lockdown meticulously and several precautions remain in place to keep the numbers down. Sports tournament that attract large crowds, naturally, are being put on hold for now.
MFA General Secretary Mr Lalnghinglova Hmar told TFG,
"The start of our local competitions is very doubtful as of now. We are waiting for the permission from the government, once we get the green light we will plan accordingly."
The comeptitions are broadcast across the state by MFA partners Zonet but ticket sales remain a big part of the revenue they generate, so the MFA wants to weigh its options thoroughly before deciding whether the matches can begin behind closed doors.
One thing that Mizo local football has going for itself is that most of the players are from the state itself, most if not all the top level clubs are from Aizawl and most matches take place in Aizawl, which means minimal travel and a lesser risk of exposure to infections for the players and staff.
However, the Mizoram football fraternity is against taking any chance with the health and safety of the players, and may err towards caution choosing to delay or even shelve the tournaments for this season.
The situation is similar in neighbouring states like Meghalaya and Manipur, which also have popular local football leagues but are unsure whether they can get started under these circumstances. Without the monetary protection afforded by TV coverage that national level competitions like ISL and I-League enjoy, it's much harder for these competitions to go ahead with behind-closed-doors even if it's sanctioned by the government.
In Kolkata, where the Calcutta Football League usually opens the season in July or August, a return to action ramains well in doubt as the pandemic continues to affect life in the city. Many clubs in the Maidaan who were planning to re-open around this time have decided to postpone it indefinitely.
Mohun Bagan, too, were about to open the club premises and the cafeteria to members and fans today, but issued a press briefing saying they would remain closed. A long awaited meeting between the club's officials and RPSG representatives which would finalise the football team's name and logo has also been postponed and may not take place for a good few weeks if the situation does not get better.