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The former Indian captain believes that exposure to foreign players will be crucial for the Indian footballing fraternity...

The IMG-Reliance tournament, a brainchild of the commercial and marketing partners of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), IMG-Reliance, continues to receive unequivocal backing from the certain members of the footballing community in India, most notably former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia.

“The Indian players will get a chance to rub shoulders with some International icons, giving them a fine exposure. It will benefit the Indian football," reassured a calm Bhutia, to the Times Of India.

The AIFF and I-League clubs have failed to agree so far on issues relating to player participation in the new tournament. Clubs have flatly refused to let any of their currently contracted players participate in the I-League while shunning players who have signed on for the league.

Discussions between a representation of I-League club heads and the AIFF has not been fruitful so far. The clubs view the new tournament as a threat to the already parsimoniously promoted I-League. They believe the I-League will be cast into a shadow by the IMG-Reliance's marketing policy while the AIFF deny anything of this sort.

Bhaichung went on to add, “Quite a few national players have signed for the IMG-Reliance tournament and it would further help Indian football if the I-League clubs also release their players for the tournament. It's an experiment in Indian football and we should support it."

Shifting topics, Bhutia acknowledged India to be favourites to retain the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) crown they earned in 2011, but anticipated an extensive fight by the other contenders.  

“SAFF Championship has always been a happy hunting ground for India. No doubt, they start as favourites but it would not be easy. The other teams would try best to give India a good fight."

India have started their campaign on a slightly wary tone, beating Pakistan by a solitary own goal. India have won a total of six SAFF Championships that have been held since its inception.  

 

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