Former India football captain Baichung Bhutia is not particularly happy with the pay packages on offer in the much-awaited Indian Super League but insists that the event won't be detrimental to the sport either.
"I am definitely not happy with the money. I would want them to get much more than what they are getting right now, even with the ISL as well. I would have been happy if there was an auction and the players get more money. But it is a good start," he said. (Subrata Paul, Syed Rahim Nabi to Play for Mumbai in Indian Super League)
The 'Sikkimese sniper' said he would have preferred an auction for the players as he wasn't satisfied with the financial package which is between Rs 15 lakh to Rs 80 lakh.
However, Bhutia does not expect any overnight changes in Indian football due to the much-hyped event.
"At the moment, I can't say that ISL has come in and it will change Indian football and we are going to qualify for the World Cup. But it definitely is not going to damage Indian football. Right now the state where we are, realistically, we are ranked somewhere 156 so I don't think we can go worse than this. It can only get better with the ISL coming in," Bhutia told reporters here.
Asked if the I-League would suffer because of the ISL Bhutia said, "I won't say there is no future for I-League, because I-League is the main tournament for us. I-League is usually a five to six months long tournament. Lajong and Dempo have already tied up with ISL franchises so there are opportunities for lot of I-League teams to tie up with ISL." (Sachin Tendulkar's Indian Super League Team Named 'Kerala Blasters')
IMG-R global football vice-president Andy Knee said the ISL is trying to popularise the sport in the country.
"Our ambition is to radically popularise the sport in the country. From the grassroots, we want many more children and adults would start playing to the talent. This league can give a platform to these kids to come and prove their talent," Knee said.
He added that it was a conscious decision to have a minimum of five domestic players and six international players in the playing 11, as it would improve the quality of the game.
The window for the ISL has been set from September 18 to December 7 by the All India Football Federation, Knee said.
Asked about the likely clashing of dates with tournaments like the century old Durand Cup, AIFF secretary Kushal Das said it couldn't be avoided due to the packed football calendar.
"The problem with the Indian football calendar is that we have the monsoon, we have a long summer, so there is only so many months which are available for playing. Durand Cup is a very old established event so we can't disturb that. So we have to manage with whatever time we have available," Das said.