I-League needs big push to match ISL: Bhaichung Bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia said yesterday that since the level of I-League and the much-popular franchise-based Indian Super League (ISL) are drastically different, it's not a good idea or the right time to merge both the leagues.

Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia at a promotional event in the city yesterday. Pic/PTI
Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia at a promotional event in the city yesterday. Pic/PTI 

"There is a vast difference in the standards of both the leagues. There is no point to get ISL down to the level of I-League. Instead, I feel that I-League should be given the needed push to match the level of the ISL and then they can think of a merger. For that to happen, it will take a long time.

Right now, I don't think it's a good idea or is advisable for the leagues to merge," said the former India captain, on the sidelines of the announcement of DHL as the official logistics and timing partner of ISL.

The 38-year-old striker blamed I-League's limited reach for it not being a success. "For I-League to succeed, it needs to have a nation-wide presence which it does not have right now. When there is an ISL match, tickets are sold out, but hardly 300 people come to watch an I-League. The TV viewership is also low.

I-league clubs need to create a fan base," said Bhutia, who is chairman of the All India Football Federation technical committee. Bhutia also rued the lack of a support system for sportspersons in the country.

"When I talk the India players, all have has a similar story to tell. They all have struggled on their own to make it to the national team, unlike a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Lionel Messi, who have emerged from a proper system. The support system is absent in our country," he said.

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