Former Indian player Baichung Bhutia, who is presently an advisor to All India Football Federation, expressed his opinion on a potential ISL-I League merger during a press conference today in Kokata.
The retired striker stressed the importance of looking at the situation from the point of view of players. "We are looking at the perspective of players, to see that lots of players get opportunities. From a player's point of view, if we have 20 teams after merging, then we are more than happy. But whether that happens or not is a different question. "
Bhutia remarked that the aim should to provide more opportunities for the players.
"We want to see maximum number of players playing. The opportunity for players, who are playing at the highest level for a longer period of time, is going to be more and that is what we want."
"A lot of players are getting to play only very few matches. In a team in ISL, not all players get to play matches. So the number of matches for a player is less.", added Bhutia. The striker said that he felt the players have to be given more opportunity for Indian football to grow, suggesting a 7 month long ISL and I League.
"Making ISL a 7 month affair is a gamble they have to take. There are challenges but it will be beneficial for Indian football. Players will take contracts seriously if they are longer."
Players might leave clubs for better pay elsewhere and according to Bhutia, it is bound to happen. He said that the younger generation needs to be able to look at the current crop of players and be sure that they can make a living out of football.
"If ISL merger does not happen, I want 7 months of ISL and I-League so that there are more opportunities for the players."
When asked about his opinion at the upcoming AFC meeting, he said he will speak about the possibility of fielding more teams at the top level of Indian football.
"The AIFF spends money on I-League but doesn't make a lot of money out of it. In India, we need to make sure that players become assets for their clubs", concluded Bhutia.
The much anticipated meeting by the AIFF will be convened at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters on 7th June and will include various stakeholders of Indian football.