Kolkata: Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Friday lamented the pulling out of traditional Goan clubs from the I-League, but said the withdrawals could open the door for new outfits.
"It's sad that Dempo, Salgaocar, Sporting Clube de Goa have pulled out as they have been there since I made my debut especially Dempo.
"At the same time, if you look at the brighter side it's an opportunity for other teams to come in. Goan fans should have supported these teams like they support FC Goa," Bhutia said in Kolkata.
Bhutia felt that every club in India should get the opportunity to play at the highest level.
"Each and every club in India today has to have right to play the highest league. Clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan has to be playing in the top division. How? It's for the ISL and I-League to decide," he said.
"For merger to take place, there's going to be a lot of give and take between clubs and ISL, it's a challenge. To make it a long league will be a gamble but seven-month league is very important."
One of India's all-time best strikers, Bhutia said the standard of ISL has dropped this season.
"This year, the Indian players have scored less goals which is not a good news. There's not been a single Indian scorer for Atletico de Kolkata," the former India captain told a news conference on the eve of ATK's semifinal against Mumbai City FC.
Bhutia had his stats ready and pointed out that the number of goals scored has reduced in the third edition.
"At this stage the goals scored were more, a lot of teams have been defensive in their approach."
ATK have scored only 16 goals this season and were involved in eight draws from 14 matches.
"The coaches this season have tried not to lose games. That's why a lot of draws. Definitely it's not the way two years ago. ISL format is to give all teams equal chance. Kerala started poorly and they're now second in the league. Zico had been great with Goa last two seasons but struggled this time, while Delhi, Mumbai have been consistent."
With less than a year left for the U-17 World Cup, Bhutia is hopeful that India would put up a good show.
"When Nicolai (Adam, head coach) took over, he did not feel the team is strong enough. I also felt the same. So he was sent scouting across the country. In this regard when the state tournaments happen, the states need to send their best players," Bhutia said.
"I am hopeful that we will give a good performance. This team is the best we got. The standards of the U-17 World Cup are very high."
Bhutia said he does not have the motivation to get into coaching.
"For me, it's a difficult job. I'm enjoying what I am doing right now -- have my own academy in one-two years' time."
He said he has joined the School Sports Promotional Foundation.
"I'm able to get support from the Railways Ministry, SAI and everywhere. I'm trying to see everyone play a inter-school football tournament. It's the biggest grassroots programme in sometime."
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Updated Date: Dec 09, 2016 22:46:07 IST