‘It’s very unfortunate. I think they need to try and sort it out as soon as possible. It’s not good for football. I-leagues and the Federation, everybody needs to sit and find a solution.’
New Delhi: Amid the ongoing tussle between I-League clubs and All India Football Federation (AIFF), former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia backed promotion-relegation system, saying there should be more number of teams involved.
“I am not talking exactly about merger. We need to have bigger number of teams in higher league than lower league, where we can have relegation-promotion system. Praful Patel made a statement few days ago, saying that in a couple of years he has been wanting to do that…have top league and below that have relegation and promotion right down to 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions. I think all across the world they have that format and we also should get that done,” Bhutia said at knowledge session on ‘Integrity in Sports’ organised by AIGF (All India Gaming Federation), FICCI.
I-League clubs—Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Minerva Punjab among others—had moved the FIFA regarding the current situation in Indian football following which the governing body wrote to the AIFF to provide them with an update.
“It’s very unfortunate. I think they need to try and sort it out as soon as possible. It’s not good for football. I-leagues and the Federation, everybody needs to sit and find a solution,” the former striker said.
Speaking about reports of him retiring from club level sport with East Bengal colours, Bhutia could not confirm whether he will be doning the club’s jersey again.
“Discussion is underway with East Bengal. They wanted me to officially retire with East Bengal because I started with them. It’s still there and let’s see if that can happen. I have stopped playing professional football and retired long time ago,” Bhutia, who retired in 2011, said.
Bhutia played for Mohun Bagan in 2002 as well. Asked why he chose East Bengal over Mohun Bagan, he said, “Yes, I have played for Mohun Bagan but East Bengal has always been a club which has made me what I am. They gave me the platform. It’s like a second home for me. I am excited and looking forward to it.”
Asked about Indian football team’s poor show at Intercontinental Cup under new head coach Igor Stimac, where they lost against Tajikistan (2-4) and North Korea (2-5), he said, “Fans need to give some time to the coach since he is fairly new to the Indian football. Results have not been pretty so far but injuries to key defenders made things difficult. It takes time to build a team and coach is trying new combinations with a young team and that’s what we saw at the Intercontinental Cup.”