Sunil Chhetri hopes for better structure in Indian football, says unified league will help player employment

At a time when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is scheduling meeting after meeting to decide a future roadmap for Indian football, national team skipper Sunil Chhetri hopes that India get in place a better league structure so that there are more number of teams which produces more employment for Indian footballers.  

 Sunil Chhetri hopes for better structure in Indian football, says unified league will help player employment

Sunil Chhetri was awarded the 2016 Hero of I-League accolade by AIFF president Praful Patel. AIFF

“I have said repeatedly that more teams in one league is the ideal scenario. An increased number of teams playing in one league would be the best thing for Indian football and no one can argue against it,” said Chhetri who was named as the 2016 Hero of I-League at the glittering AIFF Awards at a city hotel in Mumbai on Thursday.

Chhetri opined that a single league with many teams would work wonders for a lot of players.

“A unified league will create more competition. More players will get a chance, especially the youngsters. We want a structure that will produce 20 Udantas (Singh), 20 Gurpreets (Singh Sandhu) and 20 Jejes (Lalpekhlua) every year. We need to have league structure that will allow the younger generations to play,” said Chhetri.

On Thursday, AIFF president Praful Patel chaired a Special General Body Meeting (SGBM) in Mumbai where the AIFF constitution was amended to keep it in line with the FIFA and the AFC constitution. There was also talk about an extended Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League to run simultaneously in the upcoming season as a short-term measure.

Chhetri believes that the two leagues running simultaneously will provide further opportunities for young players to play.   

“Whether there are simultaneous leagues running or not, if there are more clubs that are running properly then there is higher employment in Indian football,” said the Bengaluru FC striker before adding: “If ISL and I-League happen simultaneously, one thing is for sure that the players will get employment."

"If we have 10 teams in a league and 10 teams in another, it means that are 20 teams competing in the country. That means employment of so many players in the country," Chhetri said.

India recently achieved its second highest spot in the FIFA rankings — from 173 to 99 in a span of two years. Chhetri stressed that the wins against Myanmar, Puerto Rico and the SAFF Cup title with a young side were important in India's rise in rankings. He also noted that the dressing room was exceptionally happy the dressing room is and hopes it stays like this for years to come.

"It does give us a lot of happiness when we see our team in the top 100. But we don't take it very seriously. When we were at 170, I spoke loudly that we aren't 170 because we did well at times. In the same way, when you do well in an important tournament, you gain a lot of points. It does give us a lot of happiness but the most important thing for us is to keep winning games, especially in big tournaments."

“They (rankings) do matter but as players, our job is to give our best on and off the pitch and try to win games,” said goalkeeper Gurpreet, who was bestowed with the 2016 Special Recognition Award of the Year by AIFF.

Chettri said he was really delighted to win the award as events like these gives football players recognition. While Chhetri missed the friendly against Nepal, he said that he was fit and ready to take the field against favourites Kyrgyz Republic on 13 June in Bengaluru in a crucial 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying encounter. 

The AIFF Awards witnessed forward Jeje being awarded the 2016 Player of the Year while Sasmita Malik took home the 2016 Women's Player of the Year accolade.

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Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 20:49:11 IST