A group of the Indian football players – including senior pros Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sandesh Jhingan – called for a longer domestic season and urged the stakeholders to set their agendas aside and resolve the current conflicts in Indian football that are making the players insecure about their futures.
Training in Goa ahead of the team’s opening World Cup qualifier against Oman on September 5, goalkeeper Gurpreet bemoaned the uncertainty around Indian football’s future roadmap.
“Not everyone is fortunate as we are,” Sandhu told The Times of India. “We hear scary stories that FC Pune City are going to shut down and that many I-League clubs will disbanded. So the players become insecure about their future and it becomes hard to focus on the game. The performance, too, drops. I know everyone is working towards a solution but it is high time the stakeholders should set aside their agenda and think about players’ future,”
Defender Sandesh Jhingan felt the short duration of the leagues in India leave the players with a struggle to maintain the right fitness required to play in games like the World Cup qualifiers.
“The last time we had played for our clubs was back in March. So it’s a long wait until the new season starts. The more we play, the more we will improve and the chances of getting injured also reduce significantly. Fitness is a continuous process and playing regularly will mean that we can stay in rhythm,” he said.
With the All Indian Football Federation seeking more time from Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation to execute a league structure, the Indian Super League and the I-League are set to function parallelly from October to March again.
Gurpreet echoed Jhingan’s thoughts and suggested that the other teams in the Asian qualifiers would be at an advantage with their domestic season already underway.
“Being away from football for so long isn’t healthy,” Gurpreet said. “We should play 40-45 games per season. There shouldn’t be a situation where we have to rue the lack of training and playing time. The domestic leagues have started in many countries who are in our World Cup qualifying group. And we are yet to start our pre-season.”
Coach Igor Stimac had also expressed concerns regarding lack of competitive games for his players recently. With the first game against Oman approaching, his players have joined him in raising their voices for a long, unified league structure that would help them prepare better for big international assignments.