New East Bengal gaffer Khalid Jamil is not pleased by the fact that most players are preferring to play the Indian Super League (ISL) rather than the I-League in the upcoming season.
With both competitions set to run parallel to each other, the players can only opt to play in one of the two leagues. With the increased following and fanfare the ISL enjoys, most of the star names have opted to play in the IMG-Reliance owned league, leaving I-League's star clubs to fight over scraps.
Recently, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan were both in for striker Balwant Singh who decided to snub the offers and try his luck in the ISL while East Bengal winger Bikash Jairu has also signed up for the ISL draft to be held next Monday.
The Kolkata clubs have already lost the services of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Prabir Das, Debjit Majumder, TP Rehenesh and the likes to the allure of ISL.
Jamil, who led Aizawl FC to the I-League title last season, explained to The Telegraph, "It's not a good trend. Teams like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are big clubs with rich legacy. Somehow we have to find a way where we can get the star players. Otherwise the fans will not come to watch East Bengal or Mohun Bagan play."
"It's a challenging time for the I-League clubs," he added.
East Bengal will start their pre-season preparations on Monday and Jamil did reveal that he was relishing the challenge of leading the Red and Golds in the upcoming season while admitting there was a lot of pressure on him to deliver.
"I am excited to be part of East Bengal and a bit nervous too. Yes, expectations are high but when I decided to take the East Bengal offer I knew that there will enormous pressure on me to deliver. I am ready to face that," he elaborated.
The Kuwait-born coach went on to state that his first priority was to ensure that East Bengal retained the Calcutta Football League before turning his attention to the I-League crown.
East Bengal have signed up almost 25 players so far, including Willis Plaza, William Carlyle (both Trinidad & Tobago) and Mahmoud Al Amna (Syria) as foreign recruits, but the 40-year-old said he might need more players or not, depending on what he sees in the first few weeks.
"I had a meeting with the players on Sunday. The first week will be vital. And I will get all foreigners by July 27. As of now we will be practicing at the club ground. I was thinking about a residential camp in Kalyani. May be in the second week, when the foreign recruits also join," he said.