ISL, I-League should not be merged: Bhaichung

Kolkata, (IANS) Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia believes the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League should not be merged, as the ISL would then lose its charm.

“The best thing that has happened to the I-League was Mohun Bagan winning it. Look at all the fans who turned up to greet their team. I believe the same would have happened for East Bengal. But I doubt the merging is going to happen. If it does, the ISL will lose its charm. Personally, it should not be done,” Bhutia told reporters at the Calcutta Sports Journalist Club on Wednesday.

After months of speculation surrounding Bhutia’s role with ISL franchise Atletico de Kolkata, the national football icon said: “I work as a consultant with Atletico de Kolkata. I deal with technical matters. The management had a meeting with me and the first step was to have Habas (Antonio Lopez Habas) back as the coach, which we did.”

“I work in accordance with the head coach. If he tells me, he needs a striker of this height and having these skills, I find them and give him a list along with player details. I give him information, send him videos. I support Habas technically.”

Bhutia also believes the ISL, which took the country by storm in its inaugural edition last year, has brought football to the news headlines again in a way helping the game garner more interest as children are now readily taking to it.

“There wasn’t much interest in the I-League. The ISL has changed it all, taking football to news. Little kids are taking to the game in numbers which makes it easier to spot more talents. The league has helped garner more interest in youngsters and helped football,” he said.

However, the 38-year-old rued the fact that there has been no change of infrastructure to develop the game in India, saying the state associations need to play an active part if Indian football has to reach new heights.

Bhutia also hoped the Under-17 World Cup will be a game-changer and would ensure India has proper training and development facilities.

“The Under-17 World Cup is very very important for the game in India,” he said.

Bhutia also said it was not wrong having foreign coaches for the national side or clubs but insisted that Indian coaches should be “equipped with the know-hows”.

Bhutia added that there always have been “great plans, great projects but no execution” in Indian football.

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