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Standard of ISL getting better every year: Sunil Chhetri

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Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri highlighted the improvement in the quality of football in the Indian Super League (ISL) and felt that it serves as a motivation for youngsters trying to make a place in the Indian national team to improve their levels.

Chhetri, who is the leading Indian goalscorer in the league’s history, cited the example of Sandesh Jhingan for being a young player who has improved his level by playing in the ISL.

“Every year when the league becomes competitive it helps each and every player who aspires to play for the country,” Chhetri told reporters during the ISL Media Day in Bengaluru, the ISL sources on Wednesday said.

“With every year, the standard of the league is getting better with better players coming in. Sandesh (Jhingan) is one example. He improved as a youngster playing against the likes of Coro, (Barth) Ogbeche and Miku. The holistic and scientific training is a big help for the youngsters,” he added.

The Indian skipper’s thoughts were echoed by Hyderabad FC defender Chinglensana Singh who felt training with the foreign players has made the Indian players better.

“I think the ISL has done a brilliant job for the last 10 years,” he said during the ISL Media Day in Bengaluru.

“When ISL came into the picture, many players came and Indian players developed massively. The quality of players we play with helps the domestic players honestly and you can see the result of the National Team players,” he added.

Singh is another player who came into the ISL as a youngster and has established himself as one of the top centre-backs in the country. This season he will have the responsibility to lead the Hyderabad FC rearguard and develop his organisational and leadership skills on the pitch.

Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson who will enter his second season with the Blues, having helped the team reach the ISL final last campaign, expects a much harder season this time around.

Teams have strengthened in the transfer window and those who didn’t make it to the playoffs last term will be looking to make up for it in 2023-24.

“With BFC, we are used to winning titles. There is no point going into the tournament if you think that you can’t win the title,” Grayson told reporters in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

“This is going to be one of the best ISLs in terms of the level of competition. We have set our ambitions and that’s the big trophy,” he added.

“We have a set of talented youngsters and they have a big part to play in our success this year. It’s a recognition of our academy system that Sivasakthi and Roshan Singh won emerging player awards,” he continued.

The tenth season of the ISL will begin on September 21 with Bengaluru FC travelling to Kochi to face rivals Kerala Blasters FC in a mouthwatering clash.

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