Amidst abject apathy from the All India Football Federation, I-League find a ray of hope from the vision of new national coach Igor Stimac. The Croat still might not be familiar with the Indian system (for governance of football), but his vision and the system he wants to create has a definitive role for the I-League clubs to develop an ecosystem to uplift the sport.
Without mincing words, Stimac in his maiden interaction with Indian media talked about matching the things together between I-League and ISL for coexistence of the prestigious and premier football competitions.
“I-League has something that ISL cannot buy and that is tradition. You cannot buy tradition; it will take hundred years for ISL to become the traditional league,” the Croatian coach says. His view point brings in a ray of hope for the I-League clubs, who for more than a year have failed to even find a window for meeting with AIFF president Praful Patel.
“I can see a window where we can put everything together and find a way for I-League clubs to speed up their progression and ISL to inculcate tradition. ISL has most of the competitive playing staff, but then there is the I-League where most of the young players are developing,” Stimac adds as he stresses on the need to have a system in place for the ISL and I-League clubs to exist and function.
Even as I-League has been the official premier football league in the country, AIFF’s favourable stance for the cash rich ISL makes it evident that if only one league has to survive at the top it will be the latter. The friction between the I-League clubs and the AIFF has been widening with every passing season.
While Stimac in his first address on Indian football has held promise for I-League teams and players, his predecessor Stephen Constantine’s tenure has seen accusations for ignoring the I-League players for national selection.
Stimac though has also hinted that he won’t get into the controversies between the clubs and the federation, but will put forward suggestions to create a better environment for the sport. “We have to find ways to help I-League clubs speed up in terms of functioning and also bring some tradition to ISL that is currently nowhere to be seen,” says Stimac.