The former Kerala Blasters head coach spoke about the impact of the Indian Super League on development of Indian football, foreigners rule and more.

  • Infrastructure in the ISL is much better than that of I-League’
  • ISL should have five substitutes instead of traditional three for the whole season
  • I-League is very important for the development.

Eelco Schattorie is one of the few notable tacticians to have coached and managed clubs both in the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL). His initial foray into Indian football was back in 2012 when he took charge of Prayag United. Since then, the Dutchman has gone on to have spells at prominent clubs including East Bengal, NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters.

As such, he is one of the best-placed individual to comment on both leagues. Being someone who doesn’t mince his words, Schattorie put forth an honest assessment in a four-part exclusive conversation with Khel Now.

Describing some of the major differences that he noticed between the two leading football competitions in India, the 48-year-old said, “For sure, the infrastructure in the ISL is much better. There are better fields. In the I-League, sometimes, there were bad fields. We played some matches at 3 PM in the I-League, it was very hot then. Moreover, the infrastructure, media coverage around the games in the ISL is much better.”

Infact, Schattorie’s stint with East Bengal had begun a couple of months after the first season of the ISL had concluded. In one of the other parts of the interview, he claims to have been affected due to the same, as several players of the Red and Gold had come back after a stint in the ISL. Hence, they were fatigued or not up to the mark in their fitness levels.

The former Al-Ettifaq manager further observed, “If you look at the quality of play, I think the I-League went down in the last few years. Because, more and more players went to the ISL. But, the I-League is very important for the development.”

On the other hand, Eelco Schattorie is a major advocate of increasing the number of matches in the ISL to provide more exposure to domestic talents. On that front, he mentioned, “Before, in the I-League and I go back to East Bengal, we used to play on an average 30-40 games a season, including the Calcutta (Football) League and stuff. So, players got more chance to develop in the I-League than the ISL. That’s also a difference.”

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The Dutchman also believes that the ISL is and will continue to see better recruitment of foreign players, who contribute substantially on the field. Schattorie seemed to affirm that it is beneficial on the financial front too, to rope in overseas players who carve an impact for the team on the field.

To be fair, the ISL clubs have already embarked on that path by luring in the likes of Hugo Boumous, Edu Garcia, Xisco Hernandez and Martin Chaves among others, players who are currently in the prime of their career or are about to enter it. “If you go back in budget, you will have to be more creative,” he remarked.

There have been several calls in recent times to include more Indian and homegrown players in the starting lineup. It has been a topic of debate for quite some time and Eelco Schattorie had a very unique solution on this subject. He vouched for a minor structural change that could go a long way in delivering the necessary results. One of them was to increase the number of matches.

He continued, “Secondly, I think it would be good to have more substitutes. I would be a big advocate for having five substitutes, for the whole season. So, that you would have more opportunities of giving young Indian players more chances. It doesn’t hurt anybody, if it is the same for everybody; for the sake of development and also for the sake of injury prevention.”

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Moreover, there have been demands for the ISL to adopt the AFC rule of ‘3+1’ foreigners in their squads. Having claimed an AFC Champions League group stage spot, many are of the opinion that implementing this regulation could be to the benefit of Indian clubs in the coming years. However, Schattorie differed, “No, I don’t agree on that,” he stated.

The former Red Bull Ghana manager elucidated, “If the reason of thinking is to give more chances to Indian players, you will reach that probably. But, at the same time, if you play 3+1, those four will play at the centre-back, at the midfield and at the striker. So, you will not solve that problem that you are looking for. At the same time, you will bring down the level in my opinion.”

“So, as I said, you should look for other solutions. You should keep the same amount of foreigners, but look at with more substitutions and more games. That way you will also see more rotation among players,” Eelco Schattorie further opined.

For sure, the ISL is at a stage where it is looking to evolve and better itself. Hence, such suggestions to increase the number of substitutes and the count of matches could be a formidable alternative to attain the required objectives, rather than radically reducing the number of foreigners with immediate effect.

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