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ISL feature: Chennaiyin coach Bandovic just can't wait for fans to return to the stadiums

Bozidar Bandovic

Bengaluru, September 22: With a steady decline in the number coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic cases in India, Chennaiyin FC coach Bozidar Bandovic is waiting for the day when football fans will return to the stadiums in full numbers.

The 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) season is set to kick off on November 19 when ATK Mohun Bagan clash with Kerala Blasters at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Fatorda Stadium) Goa.

All the matches of the first phase of ISL which runs till January 9 will be held at three venues in Goa -- Fatorda Stadium (Margao), Tilak Maidan (Vasco da Gama) and GMC Athletic Stadium (Bambolim).

ISL 2021-22 Schedule: Fixtures, teams, dates, venues and telecast informationISL 2021-22 Schedule: Fixtures, teams, dates, venues and telecast information

While there has still not been an official word yet about the possible return of the fans to the venues, Bandovic hopes it happens sooner rather than later.

"We just can't wait to play in front of the fans. We're really missing them. That must be the case with most of the clubs in ISL. Fans are really important for us.

"They support us all the time, in every situation and that's very important for us. We're missing them most. I hope the COVID-19 situation ends fast and the fans come back to the stadiums soon in large numbers," said Bandovic while addressing the media during a virtual press conference ahead of the club's pre-season.

The Chennaiyin FC is one of the clubs which has a solid fan base in ISL and usually fans throng to their home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.

Last season the ISL was held at Goa in three venues without fans as per the strict COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.

With good balance, Bozidar is confident of CFC’s chances in ISL 2021-22With good balance, Bozidar is confident of CFC’s chances in ISL 2021-22

The experienced coach was however candid while admitting that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamics of football completely in India as well as all over the world.

"The COVID-19 situation is very bad for everyone. It's bad for football as a whole. There's too much of break for the players which is influencing them badly too much," said Bandovic, who himself is in quarantine after having arrived in the country recently.

The Montenegrin dwelled further on the adverse impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the players.

"Football isn't the same in the COVID-19 bio-bubble. We've many players in our team who haven't played for their national teams for a long time. Irrespective of how much you train, whether to you play friendly ties or not... it doesn't help, unless you play in competitive matches, it's totally different."

But the 52-year-old well-travelled coach hopes situation will improve quickly.

"We've had difficulties in the past. But it isn't impossible to fix it. Let's hope this COVID-19 pandemic will end soon and football and life returns back to normal," he signed off.

Two-time ISL champions Chennaiyin FC begin their 2021-22 campaign with a match against Hyderabad FC on November 23.

Just like last ISL season, all the matches this year also will kick off at 7.30pm IST, while there is an additional 9:30pm kick off time for the double headers scheduled on Saturdays.

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Story first published: Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 10:46 [IST]
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