The Telegraph
Monday , July 17 , 2017

Declining interest in I-League pains Jamil

Khalid Jamil

Calcutta: The star players of Indian football are choosing ISL over I-League and East Bengal's new coach Khalid Jamil finds the trend disturbing.

Mohun Bagan's Balwant Singh is the latest to the sign for the ISL draft which will take place on Sunday. There was fight between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan for the star striker, but Balwant thought ISL would be a better option for him.

And not just Balwant, another Bagan player Jeje Lalpkhelua will be not be seen in I-League as he has been retained by Chennaiyin FC, while East Bengal's talented midfielder Bikash Jairu too has signed for the players draft. Then you have talented goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and defender Prabir Das who inked three-year contracts with city-based Atletico de Kolkata. Both played for Bagan last season.

"It's not a good trend. Teams like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are big clubs with rich legacy. Somehow we have to find a way where we can get the star players. Otherwise the fans will not come to watch East Bengal or Mohun Bagan play," Khalid told The Telegraph on Sunday evening. "It's a challenging time for the I-League clubs," Khalid warned.

East Bengal's pre-season begins from Monday and when asked what's going on in his mind right now, Khalid revealed: "I am excited to be part of East Bengal and a bit nervous too," he said. The success with Aizawl FC, Khalid says has added pressure on him.

"Yes, expectations are high but when I decided to take the East Bengal offer I knew that there will enormous pressure on me to deliver. I am ready to face that," he added. And what about his target? "As I said before, I am now thinking about the first match in Calcutta Football League. Not thinking about I-League at this point in time."

East Bengal have till now have signed "around 25 players" and according to Khalid he will only be able to tell about whether he will be needing a few more players after the first week.

"I had a meeting with the players on Sunday. The first week will be vital. And I will get all foreigners by July 27. As of now we will be practising at the club ground. I was thinking about a residential camp in Kalyani. May be in the second week, when the foreign recruits also join," he said.

Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza, his compatriot Carlyle Mitchell and former Aizawl FC midfielder Mahmoud Al-Amna are the club's foreign recruits so far. Carlyle is expected to reach city on Tuesday, while Plaza is slated for a July 27 arrival. Al-Amna is still waiting for his visa and the moment he gets he will set out for Calcutta.

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