Mumbai : India captain Sunil Chhetri wants the national football team to play more away games this year as it prepares for the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
Chhetri, who is currently playing for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), feels each and every player who dons the India colours needs to raise his game by a few notches so that coach Stephen Constantine has a headache while picking the team every time.
“We need to play enough matches away. We generally do well at home, but our away record hasn’t been good. We should try to get teams from 16 to 8 (AFC rankings) ranking. It’s difficult to play South Korea and Japan as they don’t want to play us. We should get teams who are better than us and play at their home. This is from the organisation side,” Chhetri told IANS in an interview here.
“From the players’ side, we need to improve ourselves, making sure that the competition for the national team increases and it is a big headache for the coach. It should be tough for him to choose the players and whenever that happens he gets the cream,” the 33-year-old said.
India qualified for the Asian Cup by beating Macau in the qualifiers last year in October.
The last time India played in the world’s second-oldest continental football championship was in 2011 under British coach Bob Houghton. Chhetri was an integral part of the team, scoring two goals in the group stages in what was only India’s third appearance.
India did not win a match and bowed out, letting in 13 goals and scoring just three.
Chhetri said India should look to play teams like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are also hosting the Asian Cup, on the road.
“We are at the bottom, man. Whoever we get is going to be better than us,” Chhetri said when asked to name the teams they should play friendlies with leading up to the tournament, starting in January next year.
“In 2011, we got No 1, No 3 and No 5 — Australia, South Korea, Bahrain (in the main round). It couldn’t have been worse than that mathematically. This time we got Kyrgyzstan, Macau and Myanmar (in the qualifiers). With due respect to them, it wasn’t very difficult.
“We should aim to play the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Palestine and Lebanon (in the friendlies),” Chhetri said.
There are talks of a four-nation Champions Cup taking place this year in India. Chhetri said the tourney would have no bearing on India’s rankings as it is outside the FIFA dates, but the match practice would do a world of good to India’s preparations.
“Now it’s not about the rankings because we have qualified. Having said that, the arrangements of the groups matter in terms of ranking but keeping all these things aside, playing at home those three-four-nation tournament…
“I hope we get better teams to play against,” he said.
Coming to his club Bengaluru FC, which is at the top of the ISL standings now, Chhetri said it doesn’t have the pressure of expectations and takes one game at a time.
“The motto in our club is to think about the next game — the way we won two Federation Cups and the I-League by taking one game at a time. The motto has not changed,” he said.
Just married to long-time girlfriend Sonam, daughter of former India and Mohun Bagan defender Subrata Bhattacharya, Chhetri signed off tongue-in-cheek, saying he now knows the prices of “onions and tomatoes”.
“The last 10-15 days after marriage… I have enjoyed my time. I think me and Sonam have seen each other for 13 years but we never lived with each other. She was always a tourist wherever I played. Now living together, it’s nice, man. More because, apart from the fact that she is my wife and I love her… we are also very good friends,” he said.
“She understands my job. So there was no need of telling her that I have to come back and sleep and take a nap… everything is nice because she understands. Later in the evening, we watch Netflix. We go for walks. We went to buy grocery the other day and I realised I haven’t taken walks for a long time. I know the rates of onions and tomatoes now (laughs).”
India’s I-League clubs propose unified 20-team top tier to include ISL franchises
Mumbai : India’s I-League clubs have proposed a road map for a unified 20-team league next season featuring both I-League clubs and Indian Super League franchises.
The move comes as six I-League clubs say they will only play in the impending Super Cup if the All India Football Federation (AIFF) addresses their concerns over the league restructuring.
The I-League clubs have been worried that the league will be relegated to the second tier of the domestic game next season and be replaced by the more marketing-driven and Reliance-backed Indian Super League, founded in 2013 and modelled after cricket’s IPL.
Newly crowned I-League champions Chennai City FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala, Real Kashmir FC, Churchill Brothers and NEROCA FC are behind the proposal of a merger of the concurrent leagues into a 20-team league.
They have approached the AIFF and president Praful Patel via a letter demanding assurances from Patel about next season’s league structure before committing to participate in the Super Cup.
“There will be 20 teams in the first division and a strong 16-team second division,” said Mohun Bagan director Debasish Dutta. “Every team will benefit and we have given a financial model so that it’s a sustainable project. Not like ISL (project) because they are suffering huge losses. We don’t want to lose ISL clubs, because they are supporting Indian football by investing money. They should stay!”
“We have handed the proposal with a covering letter. We are ready to play the Super Cup after the meeting and if at all it happens, the Super Cup should start from the qualifying round,” he continued.
Chennai City owner Rohit Ramesh said: “This is a good way to play as far as the sport is concerned. We aren’t omitting anybody, we want to play against everyone. But, it should be in a manner where the money we put in has to be got back in some time.”
The proposed league would run for nine months from September to May and include promotion and relegation from the lower division. The letter also outlined that the marketing would have to be done centrally and projected a growth in total sponsorship revenue up to 40,6 million euros (325 crores).
“The proposed 20 team revamped League, would have 380 matches,” read the letter. “We can take a conservative/practical approach and generate a total net sponsorship revenue to the tune of INR 325 crores (€40.6 million).”
AIFF president Patel to meet I-League clubs in April
Mumbai : The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel has informed the I-League clubs that he will hold a meeting with them between April 10 and April 15 Goal can confirm. A suitable venue of the meeting will be confirmed later.
Patel has also urged the clubs to come out of their decision to boycott the Super Cup 2019 and take part in the competition. He has assured the clubs that a decision can be taken after mutually discussing the issue.
Nine I-League clubs had earlier unanimously decided to pull out of the Super Cup citing unfair treatment meted out towards them by the Indian FA.
Minerva Punjab FC, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC had walked out of the qualifiers of the Super Cup which were scheduled on March 14 and March 15 in Bhubaneswar.
The clubs recently conducted a meeting where they prepared a roadmap for Indian football and informed the AIFF they are ready to take part in the Super Cup only after a meeting with the President of the AIFF.
The league structure suggested by the I-League clubs was that of a ‘unified top division league’ including all the Indian Super League (ISL) clubs and I-League clubs.
It will be interesting to see if Patel’s letter to the clubs will now bridge the gap between the federation and the nine clubs.
Praful Patel is currently in Kyrgyzstan as a part of his delegation for the FIFA council meeting.
Opportunity for young guns to grab WC spots: Arthur
SHARJAH: Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur is confident new players will grab the opportunity to fill a few available places for the ICC World Cup 2019 through the five-match ODI series against Australia.
Pakistan have rested six players — captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan — to provide an opportunity to the other leading performers to stake a claim for the tournament to be held in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.
Arthur believed it was a well-thought out and a sensible decision. “We designed this series for our players for the simple fact that we want to test our best bench players.
“There was planning, sometimes people think that its ad hoc. We want to test our bench-strength so that we could have a look at our final squad and combination. We know our major players for the World Cup.”
Openers Shan Masood and uncapped Abid Ali have been prolific scorers in domestic and ‘A’ series, while batsman Saad Ali scored more than 900 runs in the 2017-18 first-class season.
Paceman Mohammad Abbas is an established Test spearhead who has the knock of doing well in limited overs as well, while rookie 18-year-old Mohammad Hasnain has impressed with his pace in the recently-concluded HBL Pakistan Super League.
Umar Akmal has also been recalled after impressing with his match fitness in the PSL.
“After this series, we go to England and there we go with a very, very settled squad and the roles will be defined. We want to know where the squad stands. We felt that we have done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup,” Arthur remarked.
Pakistan also play five One-day Internationals against England before the 10-team mega event.
Arthur believes trying new players will help in long term. “For us, it isn’t so much about Australia, this is about us and those positions for the World Cup and the opportunity created for a lot of players because for us, we need to find who our players are for every position.
“If we could do that out of this series, then it would be good for us.
“To be honest, it’s a new squad. This is a series of opportunities. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work-out that a few positions are available for the World Cup. There are probably four available. [chief selector] Inzamam-ul-Haq and I have discussed that. So, these young players need to raise their hands up and try make those places their own. It’s an exciting time going into the World Cup.”
Arthur backed the decision to rest skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and five others.
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