India international goalkeeper Subrata Paul believes merging the star - studded Indian Super League (ISL) with the I - League to create a year - long competition with 15 - 16 teams would be great for the game in the country.
The 29 - year - old also urged the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the sponsors of both the leagues to come up with one league as early as possible which will help the many clubless yet talented footballers.
"I would want to see I - League, ISL merge to create one league in the country which will go on for 10 months. It is really hectic for us to play in three places, ISL, I - League and also in national team. Also we also do not want ISL, I - League matches to clash with national team matches, " Paul, who is supporting budding talents at a Red Bull Winning 5 event told IANS in an interview on Thursday.
"I was unlucky to miss first two games for ISL side Mumbai City FC last season just to play for national side. If the schedule was made in a proper manner then we could have played both national and ISL matches. "
"ISL has done the best thing to bring football in every household which was not found for last couple of years. Lot of players are jobless more than 300 players. Only nine I - League teams cannot fit all talented players. I request the sponsors and the federation to make it one league with 15 teams minimum and run it for entire year to attack more talented players who are jobless, " he added.
The Mumbai City FC (ISL franchise) and I - League side DSK Shivajians FC goalkeeper said having star foreign names in ISL have made it a dream come true for the Indians players, who have got the opportunity to mix and share dressing room with the legends.
"Our dreams have come true after playing ISL, just because we are getting to mix and know the star foreign players whom we have watched in tv. I have watched Nicolas Anelka (Mumbai City marquee - player - cum - manager) on TV, but sharing dressing room and getting to know a lot was a dream. So those star players if they come and stay for a longer time we will get to learn a lot more, " he said.
Speaking about his relationship with Anelka, the former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal goalie praised the Frenchman as someone who is friendly and does not have any ego.
"My relationship with Anelka was top class. He played for top level clubs and national team. We still have contact with each other. Very friendly, no ego and he loved to keep calm and focus on work. I respect him as a coach and player. In this short time it is difficult for him to make an impact in a team, " he said.
He joined debutant I - League side DSK Shivajians this year and hopes that the new team will perform well with time under coach Derrick Pereira.
"DSK is new team we are hoping to deliver good. We have top facilities in the club. The facilities we have in DSK, hardly other clubs in India will get to see that, " he said.
Hailing the coach as one of the best in India, Paul said: "Derrick sir is one of the best coaches in India. He is my favourite coach. He is both helpful on and off the field. I could not throw his word when he called me in DSK. He is more than coach to me. "
(Aritra Chowdhury can be contacted at aritra. c@ians. in)