Shillong, Jun 27: There will be no Shillong Sports Association football tournaments in 2020 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it was learnt today.
Although Meghalaya has reported the lowest levels of Covid-19 infection in the country (bar the Union Territory of Lakshadweep), numerous other issues preclude the return of competitive football to the state capital.
With the economy taking a battering due to the pandemic, securing sponsorship for the Shillong Premier League and the SSA’s lower leagues and U-18 SPL was always going to be difficult this year.
In 2019 the U-18 SPL began in May, the Fourth Division in June, the First, Second and Third Divisions in July and the SPL in August. The coronavirus outbreak also saw no SSA transfer window (it typically opens in April) this year. There was also no Meghalaya Football Association inter-district transfer window this summer either.
The gradual easing of the lockdown in the state has seen the government issue a set of standard operating procedures for the resumption of sporting activities, but while football training is permitted, competitive matches are not.
Infrastructure is another hurdle with the work on the SSA Stadium’s pitch at First Ground yet to be completed, while the absence of activity or maintenance at the JN Stadium over the last three months has led to a deterioration in conditions. Additionally, while top flight leagues in Europe can get by being played behind closed doors, the SSA relies fairly heavily on ticket sales for revenue and there is no indication of fans being allowed into the stands anytime soon.
It’s left to be seen whether any football activity is held in Shillong this year, either organised by the government, All India Football Federation or some other body. Nevertheless, the absence of the SSA tournaments this year is a blow to the fans and especially to the players.