The 59-year-old tactician is of the opinion that a reduced number of foreign players should be allowed to play in Indian leagues.

Former Mohun Bagan head coach Sanjoy Sen agrees with Igor Stimac’s proposal to reduce the number of foreign players who are playing in Indian leagues. Sen is currently the Head of Youth Development at ATK.

He remarked, “I will explain this in two ways. Firstly, the country’s champion team will go to play in the AFC championships. In AFC tournaments, one can play only four foreigners, i.e., three foreigners and one Asian quota player.

“Whereas in the ISL or I-League, the rule is you can recruit seven foreigners and there will be five on the pitch at a time. Secondly, if we recruit a lesser number of foreigners at our clubs, more Indian players can be included.”

Sen has expressed concerns regarding the lack of a reliable striker waiting in the wings to take over the mantle from Sunil Chhetri in the future. He further stressed on the fact that the same complication exists in the defensive department too. The 59-year-old suggested that barring Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Etathodika, there are few central defenders of similar quality too.

He stated, “You just tell me the name of one striker after Sunil Chetri. There is nobody. You just name one good central defender after Sandesh Jhingan and Anas. If one of them gets injured, we hardly find a replacement. In all our Indian club teams these positions are occupied by foreign players.

“I am not blaming the clubs. They build their team to win tournaments and to make their central defence and striking force strong. They recruit foreigners as they are comparatively better than our players.”

Sen provided two examples from his own club to amplify the claim. He observed, “You just see, Balwant Singh and Jobby Justin are the best among the Indian strikers. Both of them are at ATK. But, how much game-time have they got? If the foreigners are reduced, then our players will get more games and more game-time and that will certainly help our players to improve their skills.”

He rounded off by stating his support for Stimac’s proposition. The national team coach had articulated the necessity to implement the Asian Football Confederation’s “3+1” rule for foreign players. That translates to having three foreigners and one Asian player in each side.

Sen asserted to TOI, “I do agree that the ISL is a good tournament and especially this year it was a splendid competition. I do not doubt that the ISL has improved the standard of Indian football. But, at the same time, we need to think about our national team also and in that context, I am on the same page as Igor Stimac.”

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