Antonio Iriondo: Relegation is important for ISL

Jamshedpur FC coach Antonio Iriondo believes that a system of promotion-relegation needs to be introduced in the Indian Super League (ISL).

One of the major criticisms of the ISL has been that it’s a closed league wherein no team has an opportunity to break into the cluster unless there is a tender floated.

However, the ISL will cease to be a closed league from the 2022-23 season onward. Although no teams will be relegated in that season, the I-League winners will get to participate in the top league by virtue of merit and not by paying any franchise fee. From the following season, relegation will take place which would ensure that the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) plan to set up a full-fledged three-tier domestic system will be in motion. 

“The European leagues are established for many years whereas the ISL is a new league. Over the years they have faced difficulties and they have overcome it. Probably, the same will happen here. Relegation is very important. If you don't have any scenario which pushes you to compete, when you are not getting results, it doesn't matter. So you wait. We have to change this,” said Iriondo.

Another aspect which the experienced coach has asked the ISL organizers to look into is the manner in which players behave with the referees. He called for retrospective bans being handed to players who violate the behavioural code.

“Here the players go on to touch referees. They scream on the face. This needs to change. In foreign countries, the referees have the power to show a red card. ISL can take action after the match if they think that some behaviour is not appropriate for the league or any misbehaviour with the referee. There are a lot of things to change. But you have to change one by one.

NorthEast United vs Jamshedpur

“If they keep things like this then it will not improve. But slowly with the changes, it will get better. I am not saying this because this is the last match and we have not got the results. I have told all the coaches I have contact with. I have told them that we have to respect the referees. The ISL has to do something,” he shared his thoughts on how the league could improve in the years to come.

Jamshedpur haven’t had a memorable season as they find themselves placed eighth on the league table. While they started their campaign on a good note, injuries have come to hamper their season.

“Obviously, it was the worst season. We have had problems. Football is about making fast decisions and fixing things especially in this kind of short leagues. Hopefully, the learning from this season will help the club to prepare better for the next season. This has been a season of bad results. But sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Everyone must take responsibility and think for the betterment of the club,” he elaborated on the club’s woes in the current ISL season.

Jamshedpur are expected to not renew their contract with Iriondo and are likely to appoint their fourth coach is as many seasons.

“We weren't able to achieve the goals that we had set. But I have been thinking about this deeply. We have done a few good things for the club. If this opportunity appears, I want to re-experience it. But at 66-67 years, I will be probably back at home and teaching football to my grandsons. 

“I am going to miss India a lot. I have a lot of good experience here. I remember only the good things,” he concluded.