BENGALURU: The Indian Super League may have helped the ‘beautiful game’ grab eyeballs national-wide, but the national team’s performance leaves much to be desired. The recent win against Puerto Rico was a welcome one, but there is a long way to go.
One of the ways of improving the team’s ranking is to play more international friendlies. For that, the domestic season has to be planned in a way so as to leave enough time for the national team to play qualifiers and friendlies. India’s next assignment will be their preparations for the Asia Cup qualifiers, scheduled for March next year.
Former captain Bhaichung Bhutia feels the proposed seven-month league will be a boost. “The tournament will be long, and there will be enough time for the national team. If that does not happen, we tend to lose out on international matches. I support the seven-month league. Hopefully, it will come to fruition next year, or the year after,” he said here on Thursday.
“Once this new league starts, the number of players will increase because in the last two seasons, players have been losing employment,” he said, adding that coach Stephen Constantine has been doing well with the resources at his disposal.
Bhutia also felt that a merger of the ISL and the I-League would not happen. “I don’t think they will merge. The AIFF has formed a committee to look into this. What has been suggested is a system of relegation and promotion and down the line, I think that is important,” he stated.
Talking of India’s preparations this year, Bhutia said, “Knowing the ISL dates would make it tight for the international calendar, we made sure that the national team was together for a period of time and that they played a few matches.
“That’s why we had a longer camp in Delhi. The team was to tour the US but they did not go due to visa issues. Then the team played against Bhutan and Puerto Rico. The seven-month tournament is the way forward.”
To do his bit, the former footballer was here to launch the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools. “We identify talent and give them coaching through scholarships. The kids get a platform to train and we take them for tournaments in India. Tours to Europe are also planned.”
The star player felt that the U-17 World Cup would definitely give a boost to grassroots development, and be a game-changer for football in the country.