Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Tuesday requested the Indian Football Association (IFA) to make the IFA Shield an Under-17 tournament next year keeping in mind the U-17 World Cup to be hosted by India.
The under-age World Cup will be held in September-October next year. It will be the first time the country would host an event of such magnitude.
Bhaichung, currently an All India Football Federation (AIFF) advisor, believes the IFA Shield, presently an under-19 event, can serve as a perfect platform for the youngsters to hone their skills before the World Cup.
"I would request the IFA to see if the tournament (IFA Shield) can be made into an under-17 tournament only for the next year as the World Cup is just around the corner," Bhutia told reporters in Kolkata at the launch of the tourney which is scheduled to kick off on February 16 this year.
"Another thing is an international tournament will be great exposure for the Indian team which are likely to play outfits from South America and Europe."
Former Mohun Bagan footballer Dibyendu Biswas echoed Bhaichung's sentiments, saying: "I absolutely support what Bhaichung said, the tournament will help the team prepare better."