Indian Women's League: Clubs unhappy with sudden shift to morning fixtures

Players and coaches of IWL clubs have complained about the proposed kickoff times. AIFF

A sudden change in schedule of the Indian Women's League, switching games from late evenings to mornings, has caused concern among the clubs, who have raised complaints with the All India Football Federation. The concern stems from the extreme weather in Bhubaneswar - the original evening kickoffs protected the players from the worst of the heat, which they will now be exposed to.

The clubs were told at the start of this week that matches earlier scheduled for 7.30 PM kickoffs at the Kalinga Stadium have been rescheduled to 8.30 AM kickoffs (starting from Saturday, May 21). Three of those matches are at the Capital ground over the next week, while a fourth is at the 7th Battalion ground.

Players and coaches have complained about the proposed kickoff times, saying the extreme heat in Bhubaneswar makes it a risky proposition, especially with players unlikely to have breakfast that early ahead of a match. Clubs have already been training during 8.30 am - 9.30 am slots and they have been finding it tough going. The temperature in the city has hovered in the high-30s all month and is expected to remain that way for the coming week.

AIFF told clubs that they would be ensuring breakfast at 6.30 AM for the morning matches, but clubs feel it wouldn't be appropriate for the players, while they also raised concerns of a potential lack of availability of breakfast/food after the match ends.

ESPN understands that the clubs have sought a change in timings from the Federation, who in turn have said that there is nothing that can be done. Clubs have been told that the grounds are now unavailable for evening matches (even though the fixture list had been released quite a while back), and that they cannot start matches before 8.30 AM due to broadcast obligations.

ESPN is awaiting a response from AIFF on the reasons behind the change in schedule.

This upcoming week is the last of the month-long IWL, with the last match being played on 26 May. Defending champions Gokulam Kerala and Sethu FC are tied on points having won all nine of their matches so far. Gokulam, though, lead with a superior goal difference of 54 (vs Sethu's 33). The two play against each other on the last day of the league. Meanwhile, AIFF's developmental project, Indian Arrows has had a good debut, and are fourth in the standings with 19 points in nine matches, offering a rare ray of hope.