Sunil Chhetri: 'ISL table-topper deserves AFC Cup slot'

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri has reopened the debate on the format of the Indian Super League and called for the table-topper of the league to be rewarded with an AFC Cup slot.

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Bengaluru FC (BFC) skipper Sunil Chhetri on Tuesday reopened the debate on the Indian Super League's (ISL) existing format and called for the table-topper of the league to be rewarded with an AFC Cup slot.

AFC recognition for ISL before the start of the 2017-18 season meant the winner of the tournament would be awarded with an AFC Cup qualification spot. The second continental qualification spot goes to the winner of the I-League.

Bengaluru dominated the league stages after 18 round of matches, finishing eight points ahead of second-placed Chennaiyin, but was trumped to the title by the latter in the final.

Ahead of the AFC Cup 2019 draw in Kuala Lampur on Thursday, Chhetri felt that BFC deserved to be called the 'champion of India' for its group stage performance last season.

"I think if you work hard for 18 weeks, you deserve to be called the champions of India," Chhetri, who is currently recovering from an ankle injury, posted on Twitter. "The minimum that you deserve is an AFC Cup slot. I am not just saying it because of what is going on right now. Last two years, I played for clubs that won the league and eventually lost the trophy.

The 34-year-old added, "The semifinal is great for fans, the atmosphere, everything is interesting and then getting the ISL trophy is great. But I think the AFC slot is should at least go to the one who worked so hard for 18 weeks because it is not easy; you get injured, you have away games, you have suspensions. I just hope that soon the rule changes. I am sure that every players, clubs and fans associated with the ISL will feel the same way."

 

BFC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu echoed similar sentiment after the ISL final in March, when he felt that his side deserved to be called champion for its finishing top of the table.

"I want to thank the fans and I want to congratulate Chennaiyin FC for winning the final. But I believe we won the league phase and so we are the champions," Gurpreet stated.