Pune FC defender Anas Edathodika said on Sunday that merging the I-league with the lucrative Indian Super League (ISL) is the way forward for football in the country.
Launched with much fanfare in 1996, the National Football League had been touted as the harbinger of much needed professionalism for the game in the country.
Re-christened as the I-League since the 2007-08 season, the tournament has since run into rough weather with a number of clubs being forced to down shutters.
After FC Kochin went defunct in 2002, Mahindra United and former champions JCT followed suit a decade later. In 2015, it is the turn of city rivals Pune FC and Bharat FC to shut down operations.
Anas attributed this sorry state of affairs to a lack of systematic approach and asserted that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) needs to take drastic steps in order to revive the game.
"The standard of the ISL is pretty good. There were several World Cup players in the ISL in 2014 and the youngsters can learn a lot from them. But if these great players could be involved in Indian football for a longer period, we could learn even more from them," the experienced central defender told IANS here on Sunday.
"If the ISL is merged with the I-League, then we could have a longer tournament which would give Indians more opportunities to play alongside these foreigners. It would also force the I-League clubs to become more professional in their approach and that can only be good for the game," he added.
Having missed out on playing the inaugural edition, the sturdy defender from Kerala is excited about getting a taste of ISL action in 2015.
The 28-year-old has signed up with Delhi Dynamos and is hoping to pick up some valuable tips from former Brazil and Real Madrid full back Roberto Carlos who is the team’s player-cum-manager for this season.
"I used to love the way he did the sliding tackle. It was a treat to watch," Anas said.
"When I start training with Roberto Carlos, that will definitely be one of the things I will try and learn. Since he was also a defender, there are also various other nuances of the game that I will definitely learn from him."