ISL's standard has dropped this year: Bhutia

Kolkata: Former India football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia admitted on Friday that the standards of the Indian Super League (ISL) have dropped during the ongoing third edition.

"This year if you see the statistics, 37 lesser number of goals have come. At this stage goals scored were more last year," Bhutia said. 

"A lot of teams have been defensive in their approach. Also in terms of Indian players scoring goals, the number has been less which is not good news," Bhutia, who was involved with city-franchise Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) in a consultant's role till last year, opined.

"There is not a single Indian scorer this year from ATK. Last year there were so many along with Chennaiyin (FC). 

"I think more of the coaches this season have tried not to lose games. That's why there have been a lot of draws," Bhutia explained.

Commenting on the Goan clubs pulling out of the I-League, Bhutia said, "It's sad that Dempo SC Salgaocar, Sporting Clube de Goa have pulled out as they have been there since I made my debut especially Dempo. 

"At the same time, if you look at the brighter side it's an opportunity for other teams to come in. Goan fans should have supported these teams like they support FC Goa."

Bhutia believes that every club in India should get the opportunity to play at the highest level and the proposed merger with the I-League where the ISL is slated to be the top division with no promotion and relegation should keep that in mind.

"Each and every club in India today has to have right to play the highest league. 

"I think it's going to be a lot of give in the merger between all parties involved. Clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan has to be playing in the top division. How? It's for the ISL and I-League to decide," he said.

Bhutia reminisced his playing days stating that the Calcutta Football League is the best he has been part of.

"In my career, the best league was the Kolkata league. The support that we used to get here has no comparison. 

"The local leagues have been affected after the advent of the ISL and I-League. I don't know how that can be fixed," Bhutia, who has plied his trade for both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, said.

The U-17 World Cup which India is set to host next year will see some of the top players strut their stuff and the Indian U-16 team which is preparing for the showpiece youth tournament is the best the country has got, according to Bhaichung.

"The preparation is great. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have provided great facilities. When Nicolai (Adam, head coach) took over, he did not feel the team is strong enough. I also felt the same. So he was sent scouting across the country.

"In this regard when the state tournaments happen, the states need to send their best players," Bhutia said.

"I am hopeful that we will give a good performance. This team is the best we got. The standards of the U-17 World Cup are very high. You see (Wayne) Rooney at 16 scored against Arsenal playing for Everton."

Bhutia signed off by saying that "coaching is difficult" and he is not scouring that option at the moment, also announcing that he has just joined School Sports Promotional Foundation for helping football at the grassroots.