Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri called for a change in the continental spot allocation of Indian club teams. The 34-year-old striker called for the AFC Cup spot to be awarded to the group stage winners of the Indian Super League and not the victors in the final, as things currently stand.
“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. 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,” Chhetri stated in a video uploaded on his personal Twitter account.
“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,” he went on to add.
His team BFC finished top of the 10-team league last season, before falling to Chennaiyin in the ISL final. Chennaiyin will play in the AFC Cup this season, as a result. Bengaluru will not play the AFC Cup for the first time in four years. An agitated Gurpreet Singh Sandhu also stated after the ISL final that “the best team had won the league”.
The 2017-’18 season was the first time that an AFC Cup slot was awarded to the ISL. In season 3, Chhetri had played for Mumbai City, who won the league but lost 2-3 on aggregate to the eventual champions Atletico de Kolkata in the semi-finals.