sports aiff

Union MoS Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge) Kiren Rijiju with All India Football Federation general secretary Kushal Das, technical director Isac Doru and I-League CEO Sunando Dhar at the launch of AIFF Golden Baby Leagues Handbook 2019-20 on the sidelines of Hero Intercontinental Cup in Ahmedabad, in New Delhi on July 19, 2019. (IANS photo)

KOLKATA – The new football season in India is set to start with the inaugural Futsal Club Championship which will have teams from Indian Super League, I-League and Second Division League teams taking part. The Championship is likely to start in early September this year.

The All India Football Federation had invited clubs from ISL, I-League and Second Division League to confirm their participation for the futsal tournament in December last year, and the initial plan was to start the competition in June-July.

However, with the coronavirus outbreak bringing the world to a standstill, the window had to be pushed back.

During AIFF's executive committee meeting on May 13, the plan to have the futsal championship as the curtain raiser for the 2020-21 season was discussed.

"We are planning to have the inaugural Futsal Club Championship as a curtain raiser for the new season. It could take place in end of August or first week of September depending on the situation around," AIFF Leagues CEO Sunando Dhar told IANS May 14.

According to reliable sources, ten clubs from ISL, I-League and Second Division League have confirmed their participation so far. They are Bengaluru FC, FC Goa, Odisha FC, Kerala Blasters, Gokulam Kerala, Aizawl FC, TRAU, Rajasthan FC, Mohammedan Sporting and ARA FC.

The likes of East Bengal and Jamshedpur FC are in talks too and could follow suit soon.

The 16-team league-cum-knockout tournament could run for three weeks. Shillong has been earmarked as the tentative venue. There will be no foreign players involved in the inaugural futsal meet and teams have been told they can field their first or second string side, as per their choice.

It has also been learnt that the champion side of futsal leagues conducted by state teams can also take part.

The futsal championship could also see stars of yesteryear like I.M. Vijayan show off his skills as it has been learnt that Gokulam Kerala has said it can approach the legendary former footballer, now 51, to feature for them to add glamour. Vijayan still takes part in sevens football tournaments in and around Malabar.

This is not the first time that futsal is taking place in the country. In 2016, India saw Premier Futsal, a private franchise-based tournament, which featured former stars like Ronaldinho and Paul Scholes. However, it was never recognized by AIFF and they even banned players who took part in it. The league became defunct later.

Football in the country came to a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak after the ISL final between ATK and Chennaiyin FC was played behind closed doors in Goa. The I-League season could not be completed and India's 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against Qatar also got postponed.

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