Khel Now tried to get in touch with owners and officials of several I-league clubs on the change in the number of foreigners on the pitch. Here’s what they had to say. 

On Wednesday, the AIFF decided to increase the number of foreigners to be allowed to be registered by an I-league club from four to six. The permutation and combination are clearly enlisted below, coming from the AIFF. Signed by I-league CEO Sunando Dhar, the letter clearly stated that the decision is just for the 2017-18 season of India’s No. 1 league. 

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The AIFF Executive Committee has taken the final decision with regards to the number of foreign players in the upcoming Hero I-League 2017-18.

  • The clubs will be allowed to register 6 (six) foreign players out of which at least 2 (two) players have to be from an AFC member Association.
  • The clubs can field maximum 5 (five) foreign players in a match out of which minimum 1 (one) player has to be from an AFC Member Association.

Khel Now got in a conversation with Chennai City FC‘s Rohit Ramesh and Minerva Punjab‘s Ranjit Bajaj on the same. We also tried reaching out to Valanka Alemao from Churchill Brothers, but to no avail. The Kolkata clubs, too, were not reached out to. 


The letter sent to all I-league clubs from the AIFF

Talking to Rohit, we asked him about his viewpoint on the move, to which he started off with, “Look, as soon as the letter came, we got in touch with the I-league administrators and they assured us that it is a stop-gap arrangement for just one season. It is pretty obvious that the move will have financial movements in several I-league clubs, but taking it in our stride is the only possible move we’ve.”

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Rohit continued, “We had made it very clear that we’re keen on status quo, which easily means that the former system of 3+1 suited us and the Indian players better. This is surely going to decrease the number of Indian players in the picture. We’re just hoping that it remains this way for just one year.” 

We’ll get back to what Rohit had to say about the legacy clubs and their motives behind this move, but first, let’s take a look at what Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj had to say. Bajaj, meanwhile, came up with a quick and smart response. 

He said, “I don’t mind increasing the number of foreigners in terms of registration, or on the pitch. What I mind is there’s no provision of fielding one U-18 player. The incoming foreigner will obviously take the spot of this youngster in the team. Where will the next line of youngsters come from? The National team roster currently has four youngsters from Minerva, all of them who played the U-23 AFC Championship qualifiers recently.”

Bajaj continued, “All I want to say is even if this is a stop-gap arrangement, it should be more wisely implemented, assuring the growth of India’s next footballing generation. Sadly, it doesn’t look like it in the current scenario.”

Bajaj also told Khel Now that Secretary of one of the legacy clubs had told him on Thursday that they understand the move to not be in favour of Indian football, but they also need to look at their vested interests. 

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Coming back to Rohit and the legacy clubs, the Chennai City FC owner said, “There are various clubs in the scenario like DSK and Aizawl who will not be able to financially cope up with the challenge of fighting against Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. The Kolkata clubs, which I believe, have taken it upon themselves to show the Kolkata crowd who’s the boss there and hold their own against the Indian Super League sides. Thus, they wanted this move and it has happened.”

In a recent interview with Khel Now, Shillong Lajong owner and AIFF Vice-President Larsing Ming had said, “I disapprove the call for more foreigners in the I-League. Having more than 4 foreigners in the league will mean lesser playing opportunities for Indian players which will hinder in the development of football and the players in the country. Besides having more foreigners will not enhance the marketability of the League either.”

He also went on to compare the same with the Indian Super League’s move to reduce the number and said, “At a stage when even the ISL is reducing the number of Foreigners in the League, the call to increase the number of foreigners in the I League is not a correct one.”

Read Shillong Lajong FC owner Larsing Ming’s full interview here.

Khel Now understands that in no way, this move can help Indian football in the run, long or short. Even if the move is just for a year, it takes out at least 20 Indian players out of the profession to ply their trade at the highest tier of Indian football, plugging in 2 foreigners in each club (ideal situation). Easily agreeing that no club likes to lose, we believe every team would exercise the option, except the DSK, who’re set to play with their Academy products next season reportedly. 

You can read details about the meeting which happened on 29th June here