Long break between ISL seasons 'strange' - Carles Cuadrat

Bengaluru FC manager terms the long offseason "strange", a situation he hopes will be solved by the AIFF's new road map making ISL the top-tier league.

Carles Cuadrat addresses the media before Bengaluru FC's opening fixture against Northeast United FC.   -  K. Murali Kumar

By the time the sixth edition of the Indian Super League kicks off, more than seven months will have elapsed since Bengaluru FC won the title, beating FC Goa at the Mumbai Football Arena. Manager Carles Cuadrat describes the length of the offseason "strange", with a majority of the football league competitions around the world having on average a two-month break between seasons.

At a press conference before Bengaluru opens its title defence with a home fixture against Northeast United FC, Cuadrat said: “It is a strange situation when you are a professional that you cannot play for so much time. But it is the way it has been working in the country until now because of the calendar difficulties."

He indicated that the new road map provided by the All India Football Federation could be a solution.

“One of the things discussed in the last meeting with the Indian Federation was to try and make it better for everybody. I think it will have a solution in the next few years.”

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With long breaks, the teams are unlikely to play to their full potential in the initial few games, Cuadrat opined.

“For this season, we have all the teams playing with the same condition. There is not one team who has started early because of the AFC Cup. Unfortunately, Chennaiyin went out of the competition.  All the teams in India will start with the Super League and are training at the same time. So for the first game we may not be 100% fit, but with competition we are going to get to that level,” he said.

The long break, in fact, is causing a “negative impact on Indian football”, according to Bengaluru FC’s midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who has rejoined the club after a two-year stint with ATK. Citing India’s lacklustre show against Bangladesh in the World Cup qualifier earlier this week where it salvaged a draw through a late equaliser from Adil Khan, Lyngdoh said: “If the team had played Bangladesh after a longer season, it would have performed in a better way. If we had more matches, we would have been much fitter. In the match against Bangladesh, we were a long way off the mark. As players, the long breaks are tougher.

"When you don’t play for a long period of time, you need a little bit of time to get back to where you are. Hopefully, that will change in the upcoming seasons.”

The change that Cuadrat and Lyngdoh are hopeful about is because of the restructuring of Indian football with ISL getting the top-tier status.

The BFC manager said: “I am very glad with the decision. In my opinion, ISL is the one that is giving more quality, more standards. It is making players more and more competitive. If you see, all the national team players are coming from the Super League.

“I have all the respect for the clubs in I-League. We have also played in I-League before. But times change, a new era is coming and Indian Super League is doing a great job in improving football in the country. I feel it is something that is going to do good for Indian football. With the new plan, by 2023 everything can become fully normal with more team participating and more games to be held which will be better for the teams, supporters and the national team.”