Bhaichung: 'New league needs relegation and promotion'

Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia highlighted the need for the proposed league to have promotions and relegations.

Baichung Bhutia Indian Football ISL Ileague relegation promotion

Former Indian football team captain said: "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."   -  Ashoke Chakrabarty

Former India skipper and All-India Football Federation (AIFF) Technical Committee Chairman Bhaichung Bhutia said that it will be a “win-win situation” to have a system of promotion and relegation between the Indian Super League (ISL) and the League 1.

ISL and League 1 (I-League’s new avatar) occupy the top two slots in the AIFF's revamped club football structure proposed to take effect from the 2017-18 season. Many non-ISL clubs feel the absence of promotion and relegation could severely affect their finances.

“Somewhere down the line, there has to be relegation and promotion,” Bhutia said at a Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools event 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. But there will be lot of sacrifices to be made from everyone.”

The new structure, in which the ISL, League 1 and the League 2 will run parallelly for seven months, will solve a number of issues plaguing Indian football, Bhutia felt.

“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.”

“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.”

When asked if the ISL, as a result, is being given more importance than the national team at present, Bhutia replied in the negative.

“No. That's the reason we had a long camp in Delhi and then the subsequent friendlies.”

Bhutia also dwelt on the importance of developing football at the grass-roots and said that the hosting of the 2017 FIFA under-17 World Cup was the best thing to happen.

“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!”

“India has a lot of Messis. But we are losing hundreds of Messis because we don’t know how to identify them. We don’t have a support system to make what Messi has become today,” said Bhutia.

“When we hold an under-16 tournament, the state associations do not send the best players. It takes time and good scouts to select them. It’s obviously not an easy task, but Nicolai Adam — the Indian under-17 coach — should get to see the best players,” added Bhutia.