ISL 2018: 'Don't want Indian football team players to risk injuries by playing local leagues in offseason,' says Sunil Chhetri
There has been a lull of sorts, during the offseason for top-flight football players, but a number of players have already been actively playing the beautiful game in the local level.
The seven-a-side version of the game is extremely popular in Kerala, and is played on the local level. The town of Malappuram is one town where this form of football is particularly popular, so much so, that star players like national team defender Anas Edathodika and FC Pune City winger Ashique Kuruniyan have made appearances for their respective local side, Sportskeeda had earlier reported.
The seven-a-side matches are often played in rudimentary arenas, where the pitches are of smaller size, and often don't have grass on them. These clay pitches could often turn out to be dangerous for players, as they are more prone to injuries in a contact sport like football.
However, Indian national team captain Sunil Chhetri believes that top players should not risk injuries by playing in the professional leagues.
"I generally would want to avoid playing local matches during the off-season," Sunil Chhetri said exclusively to Sportskeeda.
"It's a very personal thing for both Anas and Ashique. But I don’t want players, especially those who are playing in the national team to go and risk injuries like this," he went on to state.
Anas Edathodika has had an injury-laden season, after being on the sidelines for a considerable time last year. However, over the years, he has been one of the best defenders in India, playing crucial roles for teams like Delhi Dynamos, Mohun Bagan, and Jamshedpur FC.
Meanwhile, Ashique Kuruniyan has had a breakthrough season with FC Pune City, after his time with Spanish La Liga side Villarreal was cut short by an injury. Since then, however, Ashique has become a regular in the FC Pune City starting XI, just at the age of 20.
The Indian football team is set to play tough teams like South Africa, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei in the upcoming Intercontinental Cup in June, and a full squad could make the difference for the side which is on the rise, after climbing up to no 97 on the FIFA rankings last month.
While a 13-match unbeaten run helped India's meteoric rise in the rankings, it remains to be seen whether they can maintain these performances at the Intercontinental Cup, as they prepare for the AFC Asian Cup next year.