Indian footballing legend Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday refused to toe the official line of AIFF's newly proposed league system in the country which does not allow promotion of I-League clubs to the ISL. Bhutia also praised the upcoming U-17 World Cup which will be hosted by India in 2017.
Bhaichung Bhutia, who is one of the most prominent figures in the Indian football and also the AIFF's Technical Committee Chairman, on Thursday felt that the relegation and promotion between the ISL and the League-1(I-League’s new avatar) if introduced will prove beneficial for the sport in the country. The ISL and the League-1 (the I-League’s new avatar) occupy the top two slots in the AIFF’s new club football structure with no promotions or relegations slated to happen between them. Many I-League clubs feel that the system could prove detrimental to their chances of playing competitive football.
“Somewhere down the line, there has to be relegation and promotion,” said the 39-year old, at an even at the Harvest International School here. “Maybe in few years time, we can have promotion from I-League to the ISL. It will provide some motivation, and sponsorship will also come to the I-League,” he hoped.
But, Bhutia felt that the schedule of the newly-proposed league system will help accommodating international friendlies which will help the national team.
“There will be enough time to plan for the national team. Currently we are missing out on a lot of national matches. This [structure] allows us to play the qualifiers and friendlies on FIFA dates which is very important for the rankings,” he told The Hindu.
“We are also losing a lot of employment for the footballers. A player plays in the ISL, then he goes to the I-League and some even to the second division. So players who don’t play ISL don’t get the chance to play the I-League also,” he stressed.
Bhutia also pointed out to the importance of hosting the 2017 FIFA under-17 World Cup in developing football at the grass-roots.
“It really does a lot for our grass-roots development. The number of teams wanting to participate in age-group tournaments like under-15s have increased from around 10 to about 50. It’s huge!” he said.