I-League, ISL merger: Sunil Chhetri wants 20-team unified Indian league | football | Hindustan Times
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I-League, ISL merger: Sunil Chhetri wants 20-team unified Indian league

Even as the uncertainty regarding the merger of the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League continues and two I-League clubs -- Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar -- pulled out, India football captain Sunil Chhetri is optimistic about Indian football’s future.

football Updated: Nov 23, 2016 17:57 IST
Amit Kamath
Sunil Chhetri (R), who plays for Mumbai City FC in the ISL and is skipper of I-League champions Bengaluru FC, feels a bigger Indian league could ensure more talent coming up through the system from places not traditionally known for football in the  country.
Sunil Chhetri (R), who plays for Mumbai City FC in the ISL and is skipper of I-League champions Bengaluru FC, feels a bigger Indian league could ensure more talent coming up through the system from places not traditionally known for football in the country. (AFP)

Even as the uncertainty regarding the merger of the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-Leaguecontinues and two I-League clubs -- Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar -- pulled out, India football captain Sunil Chhetri is optimistic about Indian football’s future.

Sunil Chhetri, who is also the skipper of I-League club Bengaluru FC, said that the ideal scenario for Indian football would be for there to be at least 20 teams to be competing in one unified domestic league.

“The more the teams, the better it is for the league. If you ask me what the ideal situation is, it would be 20 teams. Maybe a team from places like Madhya Pradesh and Lakshadweep. If a kid in Gujarat wants to make it big right now, he has to go beyond his state. It’s not difficult.

“But imagine how good it will be if there are 20 teams in the main league and 20 more wanting to come in. It’ll be a pan-India league then. Why do we only get players from North East or Goa or Kerala? Why don’t we have superstars from, say, Madhya Pradesh. There must be talent there. Ideally I would want much more teams and a bigger league,” Chhetri told Hindustan Times in an interaction ahead of Mumbai City FC’s ISL match against Chennaiyin FCat the Mumbai Football Arena on Wednesday.

The striker emphasised that a merger between the two leagues was really important for the players. The 32-year-old’s spoke just hours before I-League clubs like Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa confirmed their departure from the league citing “strong objections” to the road map for Indian football proposed by the AIFF and its marketing partners.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is said to be in the process of scrutinising the bids of three new clubs -- FC Bardez from Goa, Minerva of Chandigarh and Chennai City -- to participate in India’s apex football competition.

“As captain of the Indian team, it will be good if the merger happens. Players do think about the two leagues merging into one. Sadly it’s not in their hands,”