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India needs academy players to improve, not self-made ones: Baichung Bhutia

Currently, the AIFF or the state body organises grassroots festivals once or twice a year in most cities in the country, but Bhutia said that's not going to be enough.

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Anil Dias

Updated: Sep 30, 2017, 12:23 AM IST

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While everyone seems to be mulling over whether the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League should be merged, former India captain and chairman of the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) technical committee, Baichung Bhutia said that the state of Indian football won't improve if the grassroots development isn't strong enough.

Currently, the AIFF or the state body organises grassroots festivals once or twice a year in most cities in the country, but Bhutia said that's not going to be enough.

"Grassroots festivals aren't enough. If a young boy wants to train, where does he go? There should be academies with qualified coaches to train him. That young boy needs to play at least two practice matches every week. Only then will he become a good player. Having grassroots festivals with nothing happening after it isn't the right way to go about it," said Bhutia at the announcement of tie-up between DHL and the ISL at a city hotel on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old, who has scored 40 international goals, said that the reason the Indian team isn't able to perform well on the international stage is because only a couple of players are academy products.

"You look at (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi, they are products of the academy system. Most of out national team players are self made. They've learnt to play football by themselves or through school or college. That's where the problem is. And that's the difference between us and other nations."

Though he stressed on the need for grassroots, he also dismissed suggestions that the ISL should merged with I-League, saying it is not the right time to do so, and "it's not viable at the moment".

"To make it one league is not going to help anyone. At the moment, I think ISL has done a lot for India and it be brought down to the standard of the I-League. On the other hand, the I-League should be taken to a standard where ISL is at the moment and then we can think about merging."

As chairman of the technical committee, Bhutia has to access the job of the national coach Stephen Constantine. And despite the national football team's dismal performance in the ongoing qualifiers of 2018 World Cup, Bhutia backed the Englishman saying the coach should be given much more time to settle down in his new job.

India lost to Oman, Guam and recently to Iran in the World Cup qualifiers.

"It is difficult for Indian football to match the class and performance Guam and Iran have. Coach Constantine has got a new team. It is very unfair to him as the national team isn't training under him for a long period of time at a stretch. The coach needs players to be with him and train under him for a good amount of time. So I think we need to give him more time before taking a call," Bhutia said.

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