IM Vijayan: Would have become a better player with ISL back in the day

Indian football icon IM Vijayan feels that he could have achieved much more and become a better player had the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) been around during his playing days. The Indian footballing legend, who was a talismanic influence on the field for both club and country, believes that the Hero ISL would have made him an even better professional than he already was.

“If we had an ISL back in the day, I could have gained, I would have become a better player and maybe, even a world renowned one too. It would have helped not only me but also the others around me. It would have helped me become a better professional player tuning my natural talent better. But I have no regrets,” Vijayan told the bridge.in.

While looking back on the landscape of Indian football during his playing days, Vijayan hailed the impact that the Hero ISL has made ever since its inception in 2014. “Earlier, the world was not much aware that Indians played football, but that perception has changed with the ISL. It has helped the players a lot, they have gained maturity, professionalism and experience after playing against international players. They have improved a lot but need to work more and do better,” the three-time AIFF Player of the Year said.

Vijayan continued, “I think, playing with the foreign players in the ISL has actually helped the Indian players. It has helped them improve their style, performance, competitiveness and professionalism. It’s not a small thing to play along with Roberto Carlos, Diego Forlan and gain their experience. It has helped our players in the long run.”

The Indian legend also stressed the need for players to be more professional in their approach to football, urging youngsters to learn how to look after themselves from the likes of Sunil Chhetri. “They have improved a lot because of ISL but need more. The players should see and learn from Chhetri, his professionalism and dedication should be practised by all players. I myself told this to Ashique (Kuruniyan). Fifteen years of dedication is not a small thing, and if the other players followed it then we would have a winning team,” Vijayan opined.

On India’s aspirations of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, Vijayan elaborated the need for the Blue Tigers to make a mark in continental competitions first. “Indian football is at its best under the captaincy of Sunil Chhetri. The team has performed amazingly well in recent times, winning and losing some tournaments leading to the Asia Cup. They took on the Qatar team right after they won the Asia Cup, and went toe-to-toe with them, snatched a draw, that too in their backyard — it was by no means an easy task. That was Indian football at its best,” he said.

“Indian football needs to start its development from the grassroots level. The grassroots level coaching and football schools can change the fate of the sport in India — along with professionalism and commitment. More tournaments can help in achieving that goal, but nevertheless, we as a team need to qualify for the Asia Cup first then the ultimate dream (of the FIFA World Cup),” Vijayan added.

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