Kolkata: Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Sunday backed the upcoming franchise tournament and urged the I-League clubs to release their players for the IPL-style tournament early next year.
"The Indian players will get a chance to rub shoulders with some International icons, giving them a fine exposure. It will benefit the Indian football," he said during a promotional programme here on Sunday.
"Quite a few national players have signed for the IMG-Reliance tournament and it would further help Indian football if the I-League clubs also release their players for the tournament. It`s an experiment in Indian football and we should support it."
Bhutia further said India would start as favourites in the SAFF Championship that got underway in Kathmandu on Sunday.
"SAFF Championship has always been a happy hunting ground for India. No doubt, they start as favourites but it would not be easy. The other teams would try best to give India a good fight."
India have won six out of the nine editions of the tournament.