Talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri has sought early resolution of issues surrounding the Indian domestic league structure. “I hope to get the answer quickly,” said the 34-year-old. Remarking that knowing the season’s calendar always helps, Chhetri said he had heard that think-tanks were working on that. “I hope we get the answer soon. And if we don’t, you guys (the media) please keep asking them,” he said. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and clubs playing in the I-League have been locked in battle since the end of previous season with speculation rife that the Indian Super League (ISL) would get the top flight status and the I-League would become the second tier. Until the end of last season, both leagues were seen as India’s top flight competitions.
I-League clubs pulled out of the Super Cup in April after receiving no response from AIFF president Praful Patel on a letter they had written to him on the issue. In May, newly appointed Indian coach also called for better communication between the two parties to sort out the issue. “There are certain problems between leagues, organisation. Everything can be sorted out, if we communicate,” said the Croat. Chhetri, part of the national camp being conducted by Stimac in New Delhi, said India would need to improve their form away from home and the upcoming King’s Cup in Thailand would be a good place to start. “I hope we don’t do badly. In the last 13 years, we have done all right at home but outside — let’s be honest — we are bad. We really want to improve that and there couldn’t be a better challenge than this,” he said.
Chhetri said players at the camp were in a good mood and hoped they would grasp the new coach’s philosophy early. “The first thing he said to the team was, (Komal) Thatal and Chhetri mean the same to me. It’s a great message to everyone. You work hard, you get a chance. Everyone is excited,” he said. “The first challenge is to understand what the coach wants, and the way he wants us to play. It takes time. But I hope they would grasp a lot before playing the first match. The second challenge is, we are coming from the off-season and we must work on our fitness. I just hope this doesn’t come back to bite us,” he said.
Stimac’s first assignment will be leading the Indian team in the King’s Cup in Thailand starting June 5. India will be playing Curacao in the first match, while hosts Thailand will be facing Vietnam on the same day.