ISL 2020-21: 5 ways how ISL 2020 will be different from ISL 2019

The seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL 2020-21) will be unlike any of the previous editions of the tournament that have taken place. Being played behind closed doors in Goa across three venues, the league will commence on November 20th.

Despite the oddly unique circumstances it is being played in, let’s take a look at 5 things which makes ISL 2020 different from ISL 2019.

ISL 2020-21: Centralized Venues

With all matches being played exclusively in Goa this season, players will have more time to rest, recover and train between matches. This will be a consolation for teams who did not arrive in Goa at an ideal enough time to begin pre-season training, and will hope to make up for that time through the course of the season.

With more time spent on the training pitch, teams can be expected to be more in consonance with the thoughts and ideas of their managers in matches.

ISL 2020-21: I League heavyweights East Bengal and Mohun Bagan’s entry into ISL

Mohun Bagan has joined forces with ATK to become ATK Mohun Bagan, while East Bengal will be participating in the ISL as SC East Bengal.

These are big names with rich histories, and interest in the matches involving the two teams will be unlike anything seen in the ISL so far.

Compared to the first few seasons of the ISL, when there were many matches which were a hard-sell for broadcasters and spectators alike, the Kolkata Derby’s move to the ISL will give fans and promoters alike a fixture to look forward to.

ISL 2020-21: No fans in stadium

To make it very clear, not having fans in the stands this season is by no means an ideal situation. But oddly, without the pomp and fanfare of the spectators, this season may just force the players to be mentally keyed in more to the football side of things.

Not that increased concentration is a direct effect of not having fans in the stands. If other leagues that have started around the world are anything to go by, there are more goals being scored than ever before in every match and freak results seem to have become more common.

Does that mean defenders are snoozing? There is no empirical evidence to suggest that this is still clearly due to the absence of spectators. But don’t be surprised if it’s the same case in the ISL this season. Goals, goals, and more goals.

ISL 2020-21: Social Distancing and new protocols

First and foremost, the ISL will form a central medical team and employ a League Hygiene Officer who will oversee issuing operational directives and implementing the same across the spectrum.

The ISL has also mandated that the clubs hire a Hygiene Officer of their own who will be in charge of ensuring the health and safety of the players/team officials throughout the season.

All team staff and players will also be given a presentation or sorts to ensure everybody are on the same page.

All personnel will be divided into three groups – a High Protection, a Medium Protection and a General Protection group.

The high protection group will consist of players, team officials and their co-residents including family and friends. Backroom staff and television presenters who interact with the players will also be included in this group. They will be tested twice to thrice every week for Covid-19.

The medium protection group consists of league staff, broadcast staff, club management officials and hotel staff. They will be tested once or twice every week.

The general protection group will be the accredited agency staff who will be tested once a week.

ISL 2020-21: Bio bubble and new training rules 

Teams will have to ensure that their players return to full-fledged training in four phases so that they do not risk their health. A similar policy was adopted by the top European leagues and other top Asian leagues before their competitions re-started.

Level 1 – On their arrival to the host city, players will need to train in isolation individually for six days. They will be tested for the virus on the first and fourth day.

Level 2 – Players will start training in small staggered groups for the next 10-12 days. There will be restrictions on number of sessions, facility use and personnel involved. During this stage, the players will be tested thrice – on the 8th, 11th and 14th days.

Level 3 – The training groups will be larger in this stage but all social distancing and personal hygiene measures will be implemented. Players will be tested twice a week or once every four days at this stage.

Level 4 – This stage is a glimpse of the past practices where the restrictions are to be relaxed to varying degrees depending upon the government directives. The players will continue be tested once a week.

Just like the Chinese Super League, the ISL will also organise entertainment zones at the hotels to limit player movement. There will be special vehicles for players and staff movement. The clubs have been encouraged to hold team meetings online as well among numerous similar measures.

These are not final guidelines yet and are still being developed. However, with such positive and much-needed measures set to be implemented, the players’ minds should be at ease ahead of the start of the upcoming season.