The Sikkimese sniper backs the latest venture of IMG-Reliance and believes that it shall go a long way to develop the game in the country...
BY RAHUL BALI Follow @rahulatma on twitter
Bhaichung Bhutia believes that the I-League should continue alongside the new tournament mooted by the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) commercial and marketing partners in IMG-Reliance.
On being asked specifically as to whether the I-League should continue at a time when it lacks the profile to attract sponsors, Bhutia answered in the positive.
“The I-League should continue but we need to bring in new investors, new teams and it has to reach out to different parts of the country. What’s happening with the I-League is that it is just between Bengal and Goa with five clubs from each state. It’s stuck between two states. It’s not reaching out to other parts of the country. We are not getting new investors. The I-League should continue but with new people coming into the game, new investors coming in and some new hype. I’m sure I-League can survive and do well,” he said.
He was quick to point towards the likes of Mahindra United and JCT Mills FC who decided to shut shop a few seasons back despite being amongst the more successful clubs.
“But if you look at the last five years,” Bhutia continued, “Mahindra United who were two time champions, JCT were the first league champions, and they are all shut down. It’s sad. We don’t want clubs to shut down. Today a club like United Sikkim, which is just two years old, we are struggling to just survive because we don’t have sponsors. I go and meet each and every corporate house and when it comes to the I-League, I’m struggling with the sponsors as well.”
The former India skipper explained that IMG-Reliance’s new tournament needs to be backed and hopefully in future, the two entities could be clubbed.
“It’s important that the new tournament comes in. With that the interest comes in. Whoever invests in the IPL or the new tournament, there will be some people who will be interested to invest in the I-League as well, I hope. Maybe later on, three or four years down the line, I hope the new tournament (organisers) can club it with the I-League and make one tournament on the whole.”
While the clubs have blamed the Indian FA for failing to market the I-League over the years, Bhutia mentioned that there is a need to change things in order to generate an interest in the game.
“The I-League failed to reach different parts of the state. The federation didn’t have too many ideas to spread out the game. I think a lot of the state associations, apart from Goa and Bengal, didn’t do much to bring in new professional clubs and support, or to bring in new teams. I started United Sikkim, I struggled so much in Sikkim itself. It’s a nightmare to have a new club playing the I-League. Obviously it’s not that the I-League should shut down or that the I-League has no hope. There is definitely hope but something new and exciting has to come in to revive the game, I feel," he commented.
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