Former Indian football captain Baichung Bhutiya believes that success of first Indian Super league competition will enhance the popularity of I-League tournament as well. He says that he never hoped of seeing such kind of people attraction toward football in the country.
Bhutiya said, “It has definitely been a better success than what I thought it would be, in terms of at least the crowd. It has been very positive and the numbers (spectators) have been quite outstanding. Even (in terms of) the quality of the game as well, it has been good.”
“I think with ISL, I-League is going to get more (exciting among fans). I played in the I-League and own a club in the I-League (Sikkim United). With ISL, people are going to see what is happening in I-League now as they will want to see what players like Subrata (Paul) are doing. I-League will benefit from the ISL. I feel that strongly.”
“People will start looking at what Sandesh Jhingan is doing, where is he playing. Where is Romeo (Fernandes) playing. Fans would want to see these players. They would want to see more of Sandesh Jhingan, more of Romeo Fernandes, more of Subrata Paul. In that (process) they will see I-League also. Otherwise earlier they were not caring much. I am hoping that the I-League will benefit.”
“I-League would always be there but it’s difficult for I-League to compete as it is a recognised tournament by the AIFF, AFC and also with the FIFA. So you have got certain rules. Certain rules like you can’t play (as many) foreigners. So it’s definitely going to struggle in terms of quality. If you bring in six foreigners in playing XI, the game definitely is different.”
“Also when you bring in players like (Alessandro) Del Piero and (Robert) Pires, obviously the Indian public would want to watch all big names as well and with that if can also have five or six Indian players playing, nothing like it.”
“It’s also good that it’s not only all about foreign (players). If people complain that it is only becoming (a league with more) foreign players (my answer is) then come and watch I-League.”
Bhiachung Bhutiya predicted his semifinals and also the winner of competition. Bhutiya believes that Atletico de Kolkata will win inaugural ISL final and will beat Kerala Blasters FC.
“I did predict four semi-finalists. Chennai had a great start but with Elano (Blumer) and (John Stiven) Mendoza getting injured, they struggled to score goals. Kerala then came up quite well. I didn’t completely expect Kerala and Kolkata because Goa had a good run as well. I had promised East Bengal that I would retire with East Bengal jersey.
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In between I started my own club United Sikkim. I had gone back, I couldn’t play with them.”
“I started my career with East Bengal and I had promised the fans five-six years ago to retire with them. That could not happen because of United Sikkim, but now I am going back to keep my promise. I always wanted to retire with East Bengal. I might just play five minutes, I might just play five matches but I want to be fit to play that five minutes.”
The next I-League football competition has been scheduled to be played from 17 January 2015.
“It is a good opportunity for me to get motivated and train. I am going to start training probably from mid-February or March with the team and you never know I might play in a Derby (against arch rivals Mohun Bagan) and score a hat-trick. If I get last five minutes, I am going to be more than happy. So, I am sure if Subrata (Paul) plays for Mohun Bagan, I can play for East Bengal.”
“It has been good but I think they also need to do much more with getting the crowd involved and getting the community involved in that area. There are still places like Delhi, Pune to work on the community, the youth development and grassroots level. They can start investing back as well. I think that is where they can invest a bit more,” he added.