Former Premier League manager Phil Brown believes the 2022-23 season will be a gamechanger in Indian football with the re-introduction of the cup competitions along with the league, which will aid in developing the sport in the country. The increase in the number of matches will also provide youngsters with a pathway into the national team in time for the AFC Asian Cup, the former Hyderabad FC head coach feels.
“For me, as far as coaches in India are concerned, it is manna from heaven. It is a fantastic move forward for Indian football. As a foreign coach coming to India, all we want to do is train with the players. We call it contact time. The more contact time you have with the players, the better chance the player has of improving. It is the most important part in my opinion for the improvement of individuals,” said Brown.
“The elongation of the season, taking it into nine months takes contact time to another level. It helps the game to expand and improve but it also helps the coaches in knowing the players better from a psychological point of view. The whole package is now nothing but a positive for an Indian player,” he added.
The domestic football season is set to being in August with the Durand Cup. The ISL and I-League begin in October while the season ends with the Super Cup in May 2023, completing close to nine months of football.
Brown thinks the increased number of matches will open the doors for many youngsters wanting to press their case for the Indian national team. India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup for a second straight time. The continental competition is scheduled for June next year.
“The first XI of the national team takes care of itself but the next XI or the one after that, you are talking about U23, U21 players in the national team. Through this calendar, these younger players now have a pathway to the national team. Ishan Pandita scored for the national team. In his first season at FC Goa, he was only used as a substitute, second season (with Jamshedpur FC), he came in and got a few games and goals, and look now, he is pushing his case for a spot in the India first XI. The results are there in front of you. Another example is Suresh (Singh Wangjam). Two years ago he was blossoming as another talent in ISL, now he started these games for India. These are the pathways that younger players can now look up to,” said Brown.
“With the number of matches and the number of Indians in the squads going up, accounting for injury and rotation, every Indian player in the squad is going to be used. That in itself can only aid development. Some players who will not feature at the start of the season will get their chance in the middle and suddenly you get a run of 3-4 games. That exposure for players, for me, is moving Indian football in the right direction where it should be going,” the 63-year-old added.
The ISL is set to move to a weekend-centric schedule this season with matches being played between Thursdays and Sundays. “Playing weekend to weekend gives players adequate rest, coaches the time to prepare better on the training fields and with the fans coming in, it provides for a better quality of product, which will then open the turnstiles. Fans will want to come in because the product becomes more established. Indian football is moving in the right direction with that decision,” the former Hull City manager concluded.
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