Bhaichung Bhutia said I-League clubs loaning footballers to Indian Super League (ISL) franchises will have to stop from this season because an increasing number of players are not finding work. And that it is unfair for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to ask for the ISL and the I-League to happen one after the other.
Quoting from a survey of 70 Indian players, Bhutia said almost all of them wanted a longer season with one club or franchise.
“The survey showed that players feel the ISL and the I-League happening after each other is creating greater unemployment. That is why we want the leagues to run simultaneously till the merger happens. It could be difficult this year because of the under-17 World Cup but then, it needs to happen next season,” said Bhutia who is now an advisor to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel.
Speaking at a media conference organised by the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club here on Sunday, the former India captain said it is important to create a demand for Indian footballers because only then would clubs seriously invest in youth development. Playing three months of ISL followed by three-four months of I-League, as has been the case since 2014-15, is not helping that, said Bhutia.
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“Mohun Bagan and East Bengal should not be saying that (having one league after the other in a season) because then they will again loan players to ISL franchises. If they are doing it to save costs, it is sad that clubs with history and fan bases that would be the envy of many clubs in the world have to do this,” said Bhutia.
Bhutia will mention the players’ survey at the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Also attending would be former India midfielder Renedy Singh as president of the Football Players’ Association of India (FPAI). At Sunday’s media conference, Singh also said a proposal to have a minimum salary will also be mooted by FPAI in Kuala Lumpur.
Having poached players from other clubs in Kolkata and elsewhere in India for long, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal shouldn’t really complain if they not lose players to clubs or franchises willing to pay more, said Bhutia.
“Instead, they will have to get organised and invest in youth development. With the right approach, clubs can make a lot of money from selling players.”
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No franchise fees
However, Bhutia said should Mohun Bagan and East Bengal play in a league comprising ISL and I-League teams they shouldn’t have to pay the steep annual franchise fee. “Not just them but all I-League clubs,” he said.
And should the ISL get longer, it will ultimately lead to more serious involvement from foreigners. “Yes, it will have to be seen whether Zico or (Nicolas) Anelka agrees to come for one year but those who do will have greater involvement and that will help our football,” said Bhutia.