All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das said on Friday that the main issue with football's development in India is that there is an absence of a strong league structure.
The men's leagues in India has three divisions, the Indian Super League, the I-League and the I-League 2nd Division. There is also a separate Indian Women's League (IWL).
As reported by the Indian Express, who quote PTI, while at the launch of the 'International Sports Expo' on Friday, Das said, "It’s (Football is) such a popular sport, easy to play, still India is far from where it should be and that’s a very valid question. I think the main issue with football in India is the league structure."
India started it's national league, the I-League in 2007, whereas countries like Japan and South Korea started playing the sport way before and Das points that out as the main reason why India is years behind the top countries.
He said, “Now way back in the 1970s, India used to beat Japan, in the 60s India beat South Korea to win the Asian Cup, but after that we lost. The reason is very simple; Japan started the league, their national league in the 1980s, and South Korea at the same time. India actually started a national league in 2007, which is the I-league, so we are 20 years behind.
“There is no other option but to play continuously under a good coach for six to eight months in a year and play a certain minimum number of matches in a proper league structure, that is home and away, when you are playing for six-eight months, that is the structure which is missing,” the AIFF official added.
The Indian Super League has gone a long way in improving the level of football in the country. The I-League too has become more competitive and contains a big pool of future Indian superstar footballers to come. All that remains is the establishment of a proper structure and Das believes that time will come soon.
He said in conclusion, "We are trying to put that structure in place, which is happening, we have now the ISL, of course the duration of ISL needs to be increased. Hopefully going forward next year, we would have a structure where football will be played for six-eight months and at all levels.
"Not just the senior level, it has to be at the U13, U15, U18 boys and girls, and that is what we need to establish, hopefully it will happen."