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Sunil Chhetri criticizes ISL format, says league phase toppers should get AFC Cup slot

Written by: Neelav Chakravarti

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Last season, Bengaluru comfortably topped the league, but then lost in the final to Chennaiyin FC.

Recuperating from an injury, India and Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri took to social media to share his thoughts about the ISL and the allocated continental spots. The former Mohun Bagan man has always been known for his heartfelt and forthright messages shared through his social media handles and this time too he didn't fall short.

In a short video, he expressed his opinion regarding the structure of the ISL and what it meant for a team to top the league standings after a tiring 18-game schedule, but then to lose out on the AFC Cup spot in the playoffs. He quipped that even after immense hard work and commitment, the league toppers could go home empty-handed.

Watch: Sunil Chhetri shares his opinion regarding the AFC Cup slot in the ISL

In the Indian Super League, the league toppers have to go into the playoffs with the second, third and fourth placed teams. The four teams have to play in two=legged semi-final fixtures, and then two teams play each other in a final. So, this means that the AFC Cup pot or the title are not a guarantee for the league toppers.

The 34-year-old said, "I think when you work hard as a team for 18 weeks, you deserve to be called the champions of India. The minimum that you deserve is an AFC slot." Last season, Bengaluru comfortably topped the league, but then lost in the final fixture to Chennaiyin FC. 


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The former Dempo player continued, "I’m not saying it because of what’s happening right now. But, last two years, I’ve played for clubs that have won the league and eventually lost the trophy."

He further quipped, "The semi-finals are great for the fans, the atmosphere, everything is interesting and then they’re getting the ISL trophy. But, I believe the AFC slot should go to the one who’ve worked so hard for 18 weeks because it’s not easy to be consistent for 18 weeks. I just hope that sooner or later, the rule changes."

It was only in the last season, that a AFC Cup slot was given to an ISL outfit. Chhetri's India and Bengaluru teammate Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had also earlier expressed his disappointment with the ruling.

Published: Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:50 AM IST

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