The apex body’s office-bearer also spoke about the future of the sport in the country.
After the famous 4-1 victory against Thailand at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the Indian football team have failed to capitalize on the work done by Stephen Constantine. The level of domestic leagues has improved, but unfortunately the same can’t be said about the national team.
The General Secretary of the All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) Kushal Das feels that the main concern with football in the country is the lack of a robust league structure.
Need of continuity
Currently each team plays 20 games in the Indian Super League, whereas the AFC mandates 27 games to be played in the domestic league. The league lasts for nearly five months, which is 2-3 months shorter than ideal.
Kushal Das emphasized on the importance of playing continuously for 6-8 months and a certain number of matches in a proper home and away format. He said that playing for a longer period under a good coach will surely benefit players. Eventually, they will perform better.
“There is no other option but to play continuously under a good coach for 6-8 months in a year. Play a certain minimum number of matches in a proper league structure, that is home and away. When you are playing for 6-8 months, that is the structure which is missing,” Das told PTI.
He further went to inform about the steps being taken by the AIFF on this front. “We are trying to put that structure in place, which is happening. We have now the ISL, of course the duration of ISL needs to be increased,” added Kushal Das. Hopefully, going forward next year, we would have a structure where football will be played for 6-8 months and at all levels.”
Importance of age-groups
The General Secretary expects a longer period of club football going forward next year. He informed that the AIFF is trying to put that structure in place. But, that needs to be done at all the levels, including age-groups for boys and girls.
A proper football structure is needed at all age-groups, not just at the senior level. He reiterated that youth football needs to be taken more seriously in the country.
“Not just the senior level, it has to be at the U-13, U-15, U-18 boys and girls. That is what we need to establish, hopefully it will happen,” said Das.
Learn from top teams
He also highlighted how in the past, India would produce excellent results against other top Asian sides, but eventually fell behind due to the lack of a national league.
“Now, way back in the 1970s, India used to beat Japan, in the 60s India beat South Korea to win the Asian Cup, but after that we lost. The reason is simple; Japan started the league,” said the AFF secretary. “Their national league in the 1980s, and South Korea at the same time. India actually started a national league in 2007, which is the I-League, so we are 20 years behind.”
At present, the India Super League is the top flight league in India, while the I-League is the second division in men’s football. In the women’s sector, the Indian Women’s League is the top division.