Bengaluru: Former India football captain Baichung Bhutia on Thursday said not slotting international friendlies has got nothing to do with ISL dates.
"We haven't slotted any international matches, and this has nothing to do with the ISL, nor we are giving importance to it. Instead, we had prioritized the national team to stay together for a one-month camp before they disperse to play ISL," Bhutia told reporters.
Bhutia was in the city for the closing ceremony of Baichung Bhutia Champions Cup at Harvest International School.
The football icon watched the final matches for selecting players for the 'Development Squads', which will have the opportunity to attend the U-16 Youth League and U-18 I-League training camps.
The competition was organised by AIFF at the national level to select players for FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The federation slotted some international friendlies against Bhutan and Puerto Rico, but unfortunately missed out on a US friendly tour due to visa issues, Bhutia said.
"It is not that we had a month's camp without having friendlies. We did have like we had toured Bhutan and hosted Puerto Rico, in which we did exceedingly good against a team a few notches up compared to us," he said.
"We had a scheduled US tour, but it could not materialise because of visa problems - so we have prioritized our national team to get them together and also get some friendlies," Bhutia said.
India is not slated to play an international match until February 2017, despite having a nine-day window from FIFA for playing internationals in October and November.
Replying to a query on not playing international friendlies, Bhutia said it is necessary to have as many friendlies as possible to garner points to move up the ladder in FIFA rankings.
Bhutia further said that the only solution to tide over the problem is to conduct a seven-month league in an year, which will make the lives of the footballers easy and open the window to play domestic and international matches.
"The only solution as far as I see is to conduct seven-month league tournament, and I hope it happens sooner than later. This will only make the lives of footballers easier," he said.
"The kind of calendars we have - they are a huge challenge, and to tide over this problem, I support the seven-month league tournament. Why? Because employment opportunities of the players improves and find many players participating. It will also give enough time for players to prepare for national tournaments," he added.
"The federation has done a very good thing to get the Under-17 World Cup to India. This has only increased the participation of the teams. For instance, we had 10 teams participating in Under-15 tournament, now it has been increased to 15," Bhutia said.