Chhetri maintained that the ISL provides the players with an opportunity to test themselves against players of higher quality.
“A lot of good changes (in the last five years). Just the way they (players) think about football has changed. Sandesh Jhingan is much more aware than any player that you can think about 10-15 years ago. He is much more knowledgeable, he is much more a machine, much more equipped to do well. Has ISL helped? Definitely.
“I told this to Sandesh (Jhingan) when we played against UAE, Bahrain and Thailand, with due respect to these three teams, he didn't face a (Ferran) Corominas, Miku, Dimas (Delgado), (Manuel) Lanzarote or a (Bartholomew) Ogbeche. These are good top players, I'm not saying they are world class, but they are top players.
“So Jerry (Lalrinzuala), Sandesh (Jhingan) and Anas (Edathodika) are all playing and training with them. That is why they have improved. So whatever improvement you are seeing is also because of training, awareness and seeing good things and trying to (inculcate) them. So these are the small things that have changed in the last five years,” Chhetri said.
The 34-year-old spoke about the need to play around 50 games a year and provided suggestions as to how youngsters playing in the ISL could gain more exposure.
“Do we need to play more games? Yes. All the top players in the world play 45-50-60 games. You need that many games, even the strikers need that many games. I aspire my country eventually has a league where all players play 50 games.
“A small thing we can do is when a lot of young players don't get a chance in the ISL, we can have a reserve match. For example, if Chennaiyin plays Bengaluru FC and Jerry, (Anirudh) Thapa, Nishu (Kumar), Gursimrat did not get a chance to play, the day after, there should be a reserve game. It is easier because anyways they are travelling with 23 players, let them travel with 30 players. Anyway, we are in Bangalore and hosting them, so one more day we are hosting. I am not saying that it will be efficient, there will be a cost.
“What is happening now is the Manvir example. He is at FC Goa who have a giant in Coro. He will always play. Even in one leg, he will play because he is that good. So he might not get a chance. So he is sitting on the bench and when he joins the national team, our head coach might not get a fully fit, mentally fit Manvir. But if he is playing all these reserves games, might not be the same level, at least he will have 20 games, maybe 10 goals,” he explained.
The Indian skipper was also asked about the issue involving I-League and ISL. He explained that pointing fingers won’t help, especially when all parties want the same thing – the growth of football in India.
“There are people who are involved are doing their best is what I think and more importantly, it is what I want to believe. Now, I have understood that you just have to take care of your own job and trust people. Pointing fingers has never ever helped anyone. We all want Indian football to go up. We all have to back each other.
“Of course you are going to criticise each other and ask questions, but eventually, we should trust each other that yes we all are in this together. Criticising and giving hope, losing hope doesn't help.
“Egos are never nice. I have been a victim of it a lot of times in my career. Whenever I have used it, I have failed. Ego is only fine when it is working for your motivation,” Chhetri concluded.