Andre Bikey, who will be seen in the colours of FC Pune City in this year's Indian Super League (ISL) season, is looking forward to his second ISL stint and believes that extending the league's duration as planned, is vital to the growth of football in the country.
The former Cameroon international also talked about his journey in Indian football and how the league structure in the country can be improved with a few changes to the system.
"You can't be perfect by playing for three months," Bikey told ESPN. "At present, if you make the playoffs, you are playing 17 matches within two months, and that is too much of everything -- playing time, recovery time and travel. Other leagues around the world might have four or five games every month, whereas the ISL has almost nine games in one month."
Bikey was a late entrant into NorthEast United (NEUFC) last season, playing nine matches for the Guwahati-based club, and forging a formidable defensive triad of foreigners alongside Argentine Carlos Javier Lopez and Cedric Hengbart of France. NEUFC missed out on a berth in the playoffs by just two points and only two teams conceded more goals than them in the league stages. Bikey though emphasised the need for teams in the ISL to entertain.
"Fans come to the game to enjoy themselves, and you owe them visually-appealing football. It is easy for teams to have 10 players at the back of the field, because everyone wants to win. But it would be the worst advertisement for the fans if more games finish 0-0 or 1-0," he said. "You don't become a good defender or a bad defender just because of the goals conceded, because it depends on your game plan. Sometimes when you play away from home, you attack less, but when playing at home you attack more and expose your defence more as a result."
31-year-old Bikey -- whose services have been utilised by English clubs such as Burnley, Reading, Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic -- was employed from time to time as a defensive midfielder, though he says he has had more of an experience of playing as a defender in the last few seasons.
"You have be calm, focused and have good levels of concentration. It is a difficult and a very different position to be playing in," said Bikey of his more familiar role of a defender. "You could have 90 minutes of perfect play, but then one mistake can lead to your team conceding a goal."
"I think we are all growing year by year," Bikey said of how he has seen Indian football evolve during his stint in the country. "When the league will be longer, it will become even more competitive."
"It is very intensive, and it is the same for Indian players as well as foreigners. Nothing is soft in the ISL."