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MHA grants security clearance to Kolkata Football League

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New Delhi: The government has granted security clearance to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to hold the I-League tournament in Kolkata starting next month, ET has learnt.

The league has 11 teams. All the players, including foreigners, will need to enter a bio-secure bubble 14 days prior to their first match and also follow the Covid-19 protocols throughout the tournament, officials said.

Praful Patel, the All India Football Federation president who was a minister in the earlier UPA regime, lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the government’s approach towards sports, while speaking during the 2027 AFC Asian Cup bid announcement in New Delhi.

“Of late, we have seen a major change in the approach from the ministry (of youth affairs and sports). Our Prime Minister himself has been an avid sports enthusiast. He has given a lot of focus on sports … Indian sports have seen a quantum jump in recent years,” he said in a statement.

The union home ministry’s clearance is a must for events where delegates and participants are expected from “countries of concern”, such as Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said. The home ministry is also responsible for implementing the disaster management guidelines in wake of coronavirus pandemic.

The Indian Premier League cricket tournament was held in the UAE due to the pandemic situation in India. However, the Indian Super League football tournament is currently ongoing in Goa, in empty stadiums. Spectators will not be allowed inside the stadium in the I-League as well, the officials said.

The cap on foreign players at the I-League this year has been reduced from six to four in the playing XI. Approval for the tournament has been given following vetting of the proposals, including names of the participants, by security agencies and political clearance by the Ministry of External Affairs, officials said.

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