Legendary striker and former Indian national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia suggested that all the stakeholders of Indian football must drop their egos and get together for the betterment of Indian football.
The former East Bengal star gave his opinion on the ongoing dispute between the Indian Super League and I-League clubs. “I think the biggest challenge right now is to keep the egos down. It has to be give-and-take," Bhutia told PTI at a Football Players Association of India (FPAI) event on Thursday.
“Everything can't be the way you want. It has to be a bit of sacrifice for all the parties (I-League, ISL and AIFF), keeping your egos down, looking at the betterment of Indian football.”
He advised the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to sort out the structure of Indian football as soon as possible. “Everybody right now is looking at their own clubs to survive, their own league to do well... Yes, there are different challenges in I-League and there are also pluses and minuses in it. We have got the same thing for the Federation and ISL as well.
“The structure of Indian football, sooner it gets settled, the better. Till the time you don't get your structure, this is going to go on happening. Federation's biggest challenge with ISL and I-League is to get the structure right,” said Bhutia.
The iconic player who had plied his trade with both the Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan also suggested that these two clubs must be inducted into the ISL for the league’s benefit.
He said, “Today if you play a Spanish League and if you do not play Barcelona or Real Madrid then the charm of the league no more exits. By bringing them into the top league will only add to the passion and the competition will be much better. I'm sure one day they will get in.
"ISL will definitely benefit with East Bengal and Mohun Bagan coming in. These clubs have a lot of history, they bring in fans to the stadium. The I-League name can be changed. What we need right now is a top league with the big clubs of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and the ISL teams. They need to be more professional.”
Bhaichung believed that fan-based clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will help in improving the declining popularity of the cash-rich league in India.
He said, “It's the data showing it. The fans in the stadium are coming down drastically. It's there in black and white. When it started it was the third-highest watched league in the stadium. Now you need to try and do something different to revive it.
“Including Mohun Bagan and East Bengal could be one of the options. I feel by them coming in, it will add value to the league. For them to make revenue, they want the league to be longer. The sponsorship comes very less for a period of three-four months.”