While Punjab dominated the previous edition of I-League with 52 points in 22 games — the next best was Sreenidi Deccan with 42 points – competing in the top tier of Indian football is certain to throw up many challenges.
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“There’s a fair amount of excitement about being at the ISL. The team deserved to play in the ISL after winning the I-League,” said Punjab FC owner Sunny Singh, an Indian-American entrepreneur, in an interaction here on Thursday. “It will take some time because we are adjusting from being in the I-League… We will have a lot of hiccups in the first year. We will probably struggle a little bit. That’s okay. We have a long-term programme. Being in the ISL was a natural evolution for us. Our focus is on developing young players for the country.”
While they are currently in the process of signing a bunch of new players to bolster their squad, Singh hasn’t set any targets or expectations from their debut ISL campaign.
“Our team will perform better in the second season. This year, they are rusty and getting to know each other. They have no targets to meet. There are no expectations. I just want the programme to keep getting better. We are never result-focused. As long as we are following a great programme and the players are having fun, I don’t care what the results are,” he said.
One aspect Singh will keep an eye on though is enabling a pathway for young players, particularly from Punjab. “It is imperative to have local talent. But I will not pick players from Punjab just because I have to pick them. They have to earn the right to be in the team. But being a club from Punjab, we must cultivate the talent here just like every state should. That’s imperative for the development of football in this country. But I will not compromise on the quality of the team. We have got to create an abundance of good players from Punjab. That will take 5-10 years. I want them to not just play for Punjab but for other clubs and for India.”