New Delhi: As the inaugural Indian Super League readies to get its first champion, former India football captain Baichung Bhutia said that ISL has exceeded his expectation in terms of crowd turnout and hoped it would generate interest among fans for upcoming I-League.
"It has definitely been a better success than what I thought it would be, in terms of at least the crowd. It has been very positive and the numbers (spectators) have been quite outstanding. Even (in terms of) the quality of the game as well, it has been good," he told reporters at a promotional event here on Friday.
The Indian football icon said the new tournament would help generate awareness and buzz among the fans, which would help prop up the struggling I-League.
Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters FC will clash in the final of ISL, a professional football league based on city-franchise model.
"I think with ISL, I-League is going to get more (exciting among fans). I played in the I-League and own a club in the I-League (Sikkim United). With ISL, people are going to see what is happening in I-League now as they will want to see what players like Subrata (Paul) are doing. I-League will benefit from the ISL. I feel that strongly," he said.
With players like Sandesh Jhingan doing well in the ISL, Bhutia felt people would be eager to know more about them and follow them in the I-League too.
"People will start looking at what Sandesh Jhingan is doing, where is he playing. Where is Romeo (Fernandes) playing. Fans would want to see these players. They would want to see more of Sandesh Jhingan, more of Romeo Fernandes, more of Subrata Paul.
"In that (process) they will see I-League also. Otherwise earlier they were not caring much. I am hoping that the I-League will benefit," he said.
The 'Sikkimese Sniper', said it will be difficult for I-League to compete with ISL as there are many restrictions in the domestic football league.