Potential merger of the ISL and I-League not ruled out, says AIFF general secretary Kushal Das
Bengaluru, Jan 16 (IANS) All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das has not ruled out the merger of the franchise-based Indian Super League (ISL) and the club-centric I-League in a bid to follow the thumb rule of "one country, one league."
Speaking to the media at the launch of the eighth I-League here on Friday, Das admitted that the AIFF was seized of the country hosting two "national league" competitions, leading to issues over scheduling and player fatigue.
"I admit there were issues with scheduling of the ISL and some of the venues were not ready. It is our endeavour to merge ISL and I-League, maybe sometime in the future. But right now, I cannot comment," said Das when asked about India hosting two national-level leagues unlike the global practice of each country having one league.
The eight-team ISL was played over two months on a home-away basis followed by double-leg semi-finals and the final, leading to some players complaining of tight schedules, travel and insufficient recovery time between matches, in sharp contrast to the 10-team I-League which is spread over five months.
Confirming the re-appointment of Englishman Stephen Constantine as the coach of the Indian team, a position he last held between 2002-05, Das said New Zealander Ricki Lloyd Herbert was also in the fray.
"Constantine had done wonders with the Indian team helping it to improve to 120-odd from 168. We are focusing on coming closer to 100 or so in FIFA rankings in the next two years and qualifying for the Asian Cup. Now the format has changed, there will be 24 teams. So, we should be able to qualify for Asia Cup in 2019," said Das.
"The technical committee felt it was very important to have a person who is familiar with Indian football, who understands the problems and constraints of Indian football. India has big commitments like eight World Cup qualifiers, Asia Cup qualifiers in 2015 and 2016. So they felt that a person with Indian experience will be much better off."
Das added: "There were two candidates, Ricky Herbert and Constantine. Both are good, but Constantine had experience. So, we finalised his name. Constantine will be joining during the first week of February.
"He will not be coaching the Under-17 team and AIFF has short-listed Nikholai Adam, who was the Azerbaijan U-17 coach earlier and he will come for interview shortly."
The national team will be playing many international matches, including friendlies, over the next two years, which will provide ample opportunity to improve in the rankings.
"The way FIFA has structured a nine-day window where India play for a week will help. We have five consecutive windows to play Asia Cup and World Cup qualifiers. So, automatically this year we will play eight internationals. There is a window in March to organise friendlies," said Das.
"But, to organise friendlies it will not be possible this year as in September, October and November we have this FIFA window and World Cup qualifiers. But we will programme friendlies in next March and will be inviting other countries. We like to play as many international matches and it will happen in next two years."