KOCHI: Ever since losing its status as the top division of the country to the Indian Super League, the I-League has primarily acted as a feeder system that provides players to ISL clubs. After cutting their teeth in the league, many Indian players make the crossover to the ISL.
The current I-League season has unearthed some exciting talents like Gokulam Kerala FC's Emil Benny or TRAU FC's Bidyashagar Singh. But none of these players found a place in the Indian national team squad as all the players selected were from the ISL.
India are set to play Oman and UAE in two friendlies on March 25 and March 29 respectively.
Gokulam coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese feels that it was time for the national team coach Igor Stimac to start picking players from the I-League which has a lot of talent.
"I see that all the players that go to the national team are from the ISL. I would actually like to invite the coach (Stimac) to come and see us because there are a lot of quality players in the I-League. It is disappointing there is not one player from the I-League," said Annese.
The I-League has managed to retain its competitive edge over the years and the title will once again be decided on the final day with Gokulam, Manipuri outfit TRAU FC and Goan side Churchill Brothers all tied at the top.
While Annese is on the cusp of history as he could become the first coach to guide a Kerala outfit to the I-League title, the Italian coach wants the players to get opportunities and visibility.
"I think it is very important to develop football in the country and this league also has a part to play in that. I really wish at least one player from the I-League gets called up going forward. You can look and see that there are some good players like (Bryce) Miranda from Churchill Brothers or Emil of Gokulam," he said.
There were widespread calls to include TRAU striker Bidyashagar who has 11 goals to his name and is in contention for the golden boot as he leads the scoring charts.
Overlooking Singh came as a surprise as Stimac had even raised concerns previously that there was a lack of depth in the striking department. The 23-year-old is enjoying a stellar season and one of the highlights of his season was scoring back-to-back hat-tricks against Mohammedan and Real Kashmir.
If he wins the golden boot, he would become only the second Indian to achieve the feat after Sunil Chhetri who won it in the 2013-14 season.
"The likes of TRAU and Mohammedan have so many players and it is important to spot these players and give them opportunities. It is a very competitive league," concluded Annese.