Stephen Constantine: ISL, I-League running parallely is best for India

Ajith Namboothiri
The Indian national team coach hailed the decision to run the ISL and the I-League simultaneously...

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel informed the Kolkata clubs, namely East Bengal and Mohun Bagan that the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League would run at the very same time as opposed to in different phases of the season.

While the two Kolkata giants have made their displeasure known with the above mentioned arrangement, India coach Stephen Constantine has backed the decision and also listed the reasons for the same.

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As per the proposal to revamp Indian football which was shared by AIFF and their commercial and marketing partners, IMG-Reliance last year in May, India would have a three tiered league system which would ensure at least 650-odd Indian players would play professionally. By 2020, the mooted plan also mentioned that a fourth tier would be added into the pyramid to further grow the opportunities for Indian players.

“I think it will be extremely beneficial.  With more Indian players playing in the top divisions of Indian football, the more beneficial it is for me and national coaches.  It is also good for the younger players. At the moment we have one under-23 player playing per team, I think with two conferences or two leagues, whichever way you want to put it, there will be more young Indian players playing and competing which is exactly what we want. As for me, it is a very good move,” Constantine told Goal when asked to share his thoughts on the proposed new ecosystem for Indian football.

For the 2017-18 season, the leagues will run from November to March which will be followed by a Super Cup. The calendar will be made in a way so as to ensure that the Indian national team gets to play matches on FIFA days and also are given enough time to prepare for competitive fixtures.

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Constantine pointed that the above mentioned plan will immensely benefit the national team as the players will be in much better shape which in turn will further increase their productivity.

“In this case, a prolonged season is about the duration of the league. It is about how much time the coaches have to coach. This is because that’s not happening in the current format as the games are scheduled too close to each other. A longer league will give players more time to rest, recover and also improve their skills daily with their coaches. A longer league allows you to spread out the season and give time to the players to understand what the coach wants better. It’s so much better,” he explained.

Three tier league system to provide more opportunities for players

With the ISL insistent on roping in foreign coaches, Constantine reiterated that a player can derive maximum benefit if the coach gets an opportunity to spend more time to share his insights on a day-to-day basis. He went to the claim that running two leagues concurrently is something which he has always advocated for.

Praful Patel, Kushal Das and Subrata Dutt posing with the coveted award in AFC Annual Awards Abu Dhabi 2016

“There is no time for these guys to even train properly as they play and then have to travel for the next match. By spreading the season to a longer period, it will allow the coaches to impart their knowledge to the players. For sure, the Indian players will benefit from some of the good foreign coaches. This is really what I would have wanted from the beginning,” he mentioned.

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The idea to run the two leagues simultaneously came after several rounds of discussions between Patel, Kushal Das, who serves as the AIFF General Secretary and IMG-Reliance officials. Constantine heaped praise on the decision-makers for coming out with the best possible solution for Indian football’s woes.

“I am absolutely delighted that the powers that be put their heads together and came up with the best solution for Indian football. Period,” he concluded.