Bhutia calls for longer leagues in India

“When a league is played for seven months, then cost will go higher. But football will become serious. When foreigners sign three-year contracts, they will be more serious," said Baichung Bhutia.

According to a survey by the Football Players Association of India, footballers’ unemployment has increased since the introduction of the Indian Super League in 2014.   -  SPORTZPICS

Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia and prominent midfielder of yesteryear Renedy Singh have stressed the need to have a bigger league in the country in order to accommodate more players.

Addressing mediapersons here on Sunday, Bhutia read out stats from a survey conducted by the Football Players Association of India (FPAI) and underlined that footballers’ unemployment had increased since the introduction of the Indian Super League (ISL) in 2014.

“The present format of three months of ISL and three months of I-League is making a lot of players unemployed. Those 70-80 players who are playing in the ISL are also playing in the I-League. Those who are playing in one league, there is no football for them for the remaining seven-eight months," said Bhutia.

Bhutia and Renedy suggested an alternative as well. “We want more players to get opportunities. A lot of talk is happening on the merger (of the ISL and I-League). If we have 20 teams after merging ISL and I-League and more players play, then it will be good.

“Till the time the merger does not happen, we will be happy to see that two leagues run simultaneously for a longer period so that more players get to play,” said Bhutia.

“The leagues should run for at least seven months for the sake of the players,” added Renedy.

Bhutia said the nature of the league and players’ demand had a direct impact on the growth of Indian football. “When a league is played for seven months, then cost will go higher. But football will become serious. When foreigners sign three-year contracts, they will be more serious… If there is no demand for the players, then the investment in grassroots suffers.”

The former India striker said clubs such as Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Aizawl FC should groom youngsters and sell them to make money in order to thrive in the changed scenario.

Bhutia supported the demand that popular clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan should not pay franchise fees if they are offered to join the ISL.

The FPAI will meet some players and clubs here before attending the stakeholders’ meeting called by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Kuala Lumpur on June 7 to discuss the future of I-League and ISL.

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