They are rival skippers but World Cuppers Luis Garcia and David James today agreed in unison that organizers of of the Indian Super League football tournament need to improve the infrastructure, logistics and scheduling during the next edition of the cash-rich league.
“I think one thing (that can be addressed) is the infrastructure with regards to places for the teams to train. It’s been very difficult for a lot of sides. But other than that the ISL in its first year has been wonderful and competitive,” the former Manchester City shot-stopper said.
ATK skipper Luis Garcia concurred with his views and said,”On all the training things, I’m with David James. This competition has been quite fast. It hasn’t been easy for the players because of the facility. Because of the training and the flights (schedule), there is no time to rest and it has been quite difficult for the players.”
James cited the example of Blasters team staying in a South Mumbai hotel while the venue for the final in D Patil Stadium, in Nerul (Navi Mumbai), which is atleast a couple of hours drive.
“When we are travelling, we are in good hotels but these are often an hour or more away from a training facility which is quite often inadequate.
If you want a good performance, you need good training facilities. So my recommendation for next year is to get some good training pitches,” the 44-year old James, who played for England in 2010 World Cup, said.
The marquee player and coach for the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned Kerala Blasters, said his team preferred to train on an astro-turf at the Cooperage stadium rather than wasting their time on travelling to the Navi Mumbai venue D Y Patil.
“I didn’t fancy a three-hour journey to train for an hour,” he quipped.
For Garcia, who spent his best years under Rafael Benitez at the Anfield, not getting adequate rest because of the tight schedule was bit of a bother.
“We played a very hard semi-final two days ago and tomorrow, we have the final. The most important games in the competition have just three days of gap between them.
“You don’t have time to rest after reaching the final. You need rest and the players will arrive in the best of conditions. These things will obviously improve in the next year,” Garcia remained hopeful.
Garcia is hopeful that organisers will do everything possible to improve upon the conditions during next edition.
“I think they are doing everything to improve it for the next year. I think with games every three days there is indeed travelling complications.
There is no time to rest as we have a game two days after. So obviously the people who are in charge will change it next year, give some more space,” the 36-year old Spaniard said.
ATK coach Antonio Habas compared the new tournament to a fast-paced car race.
“The Indian Super League was like a car race. Too fast,too quick,” he said.
James felt that from next year, the marquee players would perhaps be younger and not players past their prime.
“The marquee players will get younger, I think. Genuinely for the first year it is obviously going to be difficult to recruit players.
“In this year the most important thing was the transfer window. Players did not want to commit themselves to something that has never been done before. They wanted to keep their options open. Possibility of other players coming in was quashed because the draft was 1 or 2 weeks before.
“Next year, the recruitment should be left after the transfer window and you will get younger marquee players that you are looking for. It has been a good tournament as clubs are looking to invest in better training facilities.
“Like today, we couldn’t train today as the stadium is far away. If the training facility was nearer or a hotel (with all the facilities) nearby then it would be dealt with a lot easier. If all those changes were to be made, then I think it would be a very attractive league for players to go to next season.”
Habas said that it has been a roller-coaster ride for him as the coach of ATK.
“It’s easy for me as a manager or player in the final to say that everythings great. It hasn’t been a rosy trip. There are times when I have tried to pull my hair out as well as times when I was elated. As a competition I don’t think anyone could have expected it to be this good,” Habas said.
All the players in th league were contracted for a year and James feels that the organisers should take the feedback from the coaches and players to improve the league in the next season.
“This is the first season of the ISL. It would be foolish I think for clubs to try and tie in players for more than one season because everybody needs to know what response it’s going to be.
“The format is quite different with regards to the draft and what I have seen but it is important that the ISL take feedback from not just coaches but players as well. Having had such a wonderful league this season, this competition you can imagine, with a few tweaks, it could get better,” he said.