Indian captain Sunil Chhetri slams ISL format, says group stage winner deserves AFC slot

Indian national football team skipper Sunil Chhetri has been known for his emotional and heartfelt videos on social media as of late, and he was at it again today, with another important message. According to the injured captain, a spot in the AFC Cup deserves to go to the league stage winner of the Indian Super League (ISL), rather than the eventual winner of the competition.

Chhetri shared his message on social media and received support from his fans who echoed his feelings about considering the taxing 18-week schedule the players have to go through and emerge victorious in the group stage. The fact that despite working so hard the group winners can go home empty handed, does indeed feel like a let down.

As can be seen in the above video, Chhetri has discussed a number of issues with the current system.

“I think when you work hard as a team for 18 weeks, you deserve to be called the champions of India. The minimum that you deserve is an AFC slot. I’m not saying it because of what’s happening right now. But last two years, I’ve played for clubs that have won the league and eventually lost the trophy,” the 34-year-old has mentioned.

“The semi-finals are great for the fans, the atmosphere, everything is interesting and then they’re getting the ISL trophy. But I believe the AFC slot should go to the one who’ve worked so hard for 18 weeks because it’s not easy to be consistent for 18 weeks. I just hope that sooner or later, the rule changes,” Chhetri added.

Sunil Chhetri played for Bengaluru FC in last season’s ISL and comfortably won the group stage. In the final however, Bengaluru went down to Chennaiyin FC who subsequently received a slot in the AFC Cup. He suffered a similar fate with Mumbai City FC too, who won the league stage but fell to Atletico De Kolkata in the final.