Mumbai: Former Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia today backed the much-debated IPL-style football tournament of IMG-Reliance, scheduled to start in January 2014, and is confident that it would help revive the sport in the country.
“I think, the new tournament is great for Indian football. Being the president of the players' association, I have spoken to the players and they are looking forward to it. I think it will benefit players a lot. More than that, I think it is going to benefit Indian football,” Bhutia told reporters here at the Cooperage ground.
The 36-year old said the I-League has not been able to create the necessary impact but expected the new format to attract spectators and also prop up the existing domestic league.
“If you look at last 5-10 years, the way I-League has gone and the way Indian football has, it has not been able to make a big impact. So I think it is important that we have new investors and new teams, new people investing in the game.
“Good, big footballers across the world coming and playing in the two-and-a-half month long tournament, like in IPL. I think that is going to bring a lot of people to the ground, which I-League is struggling at the moment,” said the retired striker known as the “Sikkimese Sniper”.
“I think it is important that this tournament would bring in people, investors, sponsors and also generate lot of interest and hype for a lot of youngsters who would like to make football their career. Then they can see that they can make a career out of it.
“I own one of the I-league clubs and as an owner I can say it is good for Indian football and will benefit I-League as well, at some time or later. We need to be positive and everybody has to come together so that the tournament goes off well,” he said.
Most I-League clubs have opposed the tournament and refused to loan players to the new league or take players contracted to it.