New Delhi: In a development that would surely address the demands of players and club officials alike, the I-League matches will be played only in the evening under floodlights from next season, national football coach Wim Koevermans said on Wednesday.
Most of the I-League matches start at 3pm or 4pm and even at 2pm local time in the tournament that is played from September-October to April-May, prompting many players and officials to complain about exhaustion due to heat.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the launch of Nike Manchester United (Under 15) Premier Cup 2013 here, Koevermans said playing in the evening under floodlights was one of the "improvements" the All India Football Federation would make from next season.
"I-League is not one of the best leagues in the world and we have to accept that. There are drawbacks and weak points but we have to see the big picture and try to solve the issues we face so that Indian football moves ahead," Koevermans said.
"One improvement we are going to make from next season will be to play I-League matches in the evening and not at daytime," he said.
"A top-class I-League is important for the good performance of national team. So we have to pay attention to the I-League besides also encouraging grassroot development initiatives like the MUPC Under 15 tournament," he added.
Asked about the national team's programmes after the AFC Challenge Cup disappointment, Koevermans said it will have to continue playing international matches to improve its standards.
"Our hopes for playing AFC Asian Cup in 2015 is over now but we have to keep on playing international matches. We have to play international matches on FIFA dates. There are some 10 FIFA dates for international matches, then we played AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round matches earlier this year.
"We are playing SAFF Championships later this year. All these are international matches and 10 to 15 international matches in a year are our target. We have a plan to play international matches in Europe in June but it's to be finally decided," said the Dutchman who was a member of 1988 European Championship-winning Dutch team.
Koevermans said that India will have to pick up pace in its football development activities if it wants to compete even at the Asian level.
"There is not other way but to act now. See, Asian countries are making rapid strides and countries like Afghanistan have improved a lot in the last few years and Indian cannot lag behind," he said.
"We have to give serious thought in the grassroot and youth development. There is a master plan (named Lakshya 2022 authored by Technical Director Rob Bann) which provides for grassroot and youth developments. It's lying on the table and we have to give a serious thought and implement it."
He said there will have to be synergy between the AIFF and club officials in order to take Indian football forward.
"I and the AIFF are constantly in touch with club coaches and officials to be on the same page on issues concerning the development of football in this country. I am also going to conduct Pro-License coaching course for I-League clubs later this year."
Asked about the lack of visibility of the I-League in the television, Koevermans said, "There are weak links in the I-League. It's ideal if the I-League has good visibility on television. But we are looking at the larger picture."
Earlier, Koevermans and AIFF General Secretary Kushal inaugurated the tournament, which will be held in two phases next month with the final on May 9 in Goa.
The teams from the North and East regions will battle out in Jamshedpur while the teams from West and South Zones will compete in Goa which will also host the final phase of the tournament. The first phase will start on April 29 while the final phase will be played between March 4 and 9.
The winning team from the national tournament will compete at the Asian regional finals in Malaysia in June.