Gokulam Kerala FC's Italian head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese was pulling no punches after his side's thumping 4-2 victory over Indian Super League heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan in their AFC Cup opener in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Annese used the victory to make a convincing case for the I-League, the second-tier men's football competition in India where his side competes.
"I'll tell you the truth, there is no difference between the ISL and the I-League. I want the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to realise this," said Annese in his post-match interaction with the media.
The Italian who is known for speaking his mind made a direct appeal to Igor Stimac, the head coach of the Indian national men's team, who was present at the VYBK Stadium to witness the hosts get hammered by the underdogs from Kerala.
"Coach Igor does not give chance to our players in the national team most of the time. I'm very disappointed with this," said Annese. "The ATK had 7-8 national players and we beat them 4-2 despite missing many open chances."
Annese who masterminded Gokulam's consecutive I-League triumphs, the latest secured just the other day, besides success in the Durand Cup, claimed that he could even prove that ISL was no superior.
"I can make one analysis and say that Real Kashmir (FC) that was fighting for relegation in the I-League gave us more problems than ATK Mohun Bagan today."
According to the Italian, there is a lack of respect for the clubs that compete in the I-League. "I come from Italy where if you take the top club in Serie A (Juventus) and a top club in Serie B, there is no disrespect."