Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri is of the opinion that participation of retired international football players like Hernan Crespo and Michael Owen in the Indian Super League will help lift the standard of football in the country. "If we talk about the technical aspect, it will be great for us to gain the experience. What is important is the level of football, the standard of coaching which will help football grow. It's obvious they wouldn't be playing as the same way they used to, but it will be important as they would share their experience which will be huge for us. But more importantly, it will be about coaching," Chhetri told reporters here on Tuesday.
The striker is excited about the Indian Premier League-style football league, but was unsure whether he would be able to play in the new league as he has a contract with Bengaluru FC for three years. "I am very much excited. I don't know the dynamics yet. I don't know if Bengaluru FC is going to buy a franchise and I don't know what my future is going to be since I have a three-year contract with Bengaluru FC. I hope all the issues are sorted out. The tournament is going to happen and I wish them all luck. I don't know whether the Jindals would buy a franchise," he said.
Event promoters IMG-Reliance have said that at least 30 bids have been received for nine city franchises and the process has been extended till March 27 on the request of some bid document buyers.
Chhetri conceded he was earlier sceptical about the new franchise-based league because of the rift between the I-League clubs and AIFF's marketing and commercial partners IMG-Reliance. "Last time I was apprehensive, because I didn't know what was happening. Till now also I don't know in what way it is going to happen. Hence I restrained myself from commenting. IMG-R is a big company and among the biggest in the world. I am happy as a big company is associated with the league," he said.
The 29-year old hoped that the Indian Super League would have a positive impact on the I-League and felt the two leagues will have to be scheduled in such a way that there was no overlapping. "I hope it's (impact) positive. It has been here for many years and I-League is here to stay. It's the right kind of (scheduling) mix that is needed for the I-League and the Indian Super League. You can't have two different leagues going on at the same time. It can never happen for Indian football," Chhetri said.
"There has to be a right way for merging one end to another's (beginning) and now everything is positive. Many franchises will be coming in and we have also won the bid for the 2017 U-17 World Cup, so everything is going well for Indian football," he said.
Asked how football can draw crowd to the stadium and get more people to watch the game, he said better facilities have to be provided to the public, especially women. "The kind of viewership we have in our country is massive. We just need the right channeling in making people come to the ground. It's a shame that even if I want to get my mother, sister and girlfriend to the ground, there are no good facilities for the women.
"In India there can never be a problem about viewership, because the Champions League matches attract very high TRPs, so kids are ready to watch matches at 1.30 or two in the morning. We just need to make our grounds better and provide (better) facilities to women," he said.