The authorities are stern in their resolve to host the camp safely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) developmental team Indian Arrows is set to begin training for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown, with the camp set to begin on Friday (November 20, 2020), in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. 28 players have been selected for the first phase along with six officials, led by head coach Venkatesh Shanmugam.

A detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been prepared for the resumption of the team training, which lays down numerous COVID-19 protocols and guidelines in an exhaustive manner.

Mr Abhishek Yadav, Director National Teams, AIFF, stated that the team is ‘looking forward’ to return to the field and stressed that the safety of the players and staff is the ‘top priority.’

He said, “We did our best with the online sessions during the lockdown and I am sure the players and coaching staff are looking forward to being back on the pitch. Of course, their safety and well-being is our top priority and we are taking all the necessary steps to make sure everything goes off smoothly. We have formed our protocols after taking advice from our medical team, along with those laid down by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the State Government.”

He hailed the ‘strong’ backing provided by the Government of Odisha in helping organize the upcoming camp and taking Indian football forward together as a whole in recent years, and thanked them for continuously supporting the federation’s ‘vision’.

“The Government of Odisha has been a very strong partner of ours in the development of the national teams as well as other projects. As always, we are extremely grateful to — Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik and Shri Vishal Kumar Dev (Commissioner cum Secretary, Sports & Youth Services, Govt of Odisha) and his team, for once again understanding the vision and plan of AIFF, and supporting us in every way possible,” Mr Yadav averred.

The SOP, as prescribed by Indian Senior National Team Doctor Dr Shervin Sheriff, mandates that incoming players and support staff must get a Covid test (RT-PCR) done prior to their departure from their hometowns on Day minus 3 of travel so that they get the test result on Day minus 1. If RT-PCR test result comes negative, they can proceed to travel with necessary precautions.

After reaching Bhubaneswar, a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) has to be done and if the result is negative, the Indian Arrows players can proceed to their respective rooms for seven days of room quarantine. After successful quarantine without any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, they have to be tested for RT-PCR on Day 8 after arrival before joining the training.

According to the SOP, the resumption of the camp shall be in compliance with the guidelines laid down by the local authorities and it should take place in a staged fashion with an initial phase of small group (less than 10 persons) activities in a non-contact fashion while maintaining the social distancing, before moving on to a subsequent phase of large group (more than 10 persons) activities including full contact training/competition in sport.

Thermal screening shall be conducted before each training session and weekly check-up and monitoring are mandatory. All areas within the training and accommodation premises shall be disinfected at regular intervals. A COVID Task Force shall be constituted at the training camp to guide and monitor all players and staff in the camp.

Additionally, the document lays down in detail various protocols to be followed while arriving for training, during training, using the gymnasium, medical room and accommodation facility. It also adds that consideration needs to be given to the ranging fitness levels that the players may possess on returning to training and steps must be considered to prevent the predicted increased risk of injury.

The list of players selected for the camp is as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Naveen Saini, Santosh Singh Irengbam, Ahan Prakash, Syed Zahid Hussain Bukhari.

DEFENDERS: Abdul Hannan, Kushang Subba, Sajad Hussain Parray, Praful Kumar Venkatesh, Evan Thapa, Tankadar Bag, Dipu Halder, Brijesh Giri, Leewan Castanha, Gurkirat Singh.

MIDFIELDERS: Pragyan Medhi, Vibin Mohanan, Kanwar Rudraansh Singh, Vellington Fernandes, Lalchhanhima Chawnghlut, Harsh Patre, Lalchhanhima Sailo, Ricky John Shabong.

FORWARDS: Vanlalruatfela Thlacheu, Parthib Gogoi, Arya Gandharva, Mohamed L. Ahamed, Tapan Haldar, Vishva Shinde.

HEAD COACH: Venkatesh Shanmugam.

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