With soccer teams becoming extremely competitive in ISL India, many soccer teams within the Indian Premier Football League have been contracting foreign players. While the practice of importing and contracting foreign players isn’t new, it can be taken to a whole new level of overkill when almost the whole team changes from Indian to a completely different team. To make sure that teams wouldn’t abuse the practice, the Indian Super League (ISL) introduced the new 3+1 Foreign Player Rule last July 6, 2020, to make sure that the team would be balanced and to give chances to local players. They consulted with the All India Football Federation’s Technical Committee (AIFF) who also recommended they restore the said rule.
What does this rule do?
Although Indian Soccer clubs are able to hold no more than 6 foreign players in a team, the new foreign player rule applies more to the field. When fielding in players, the 3+1 rule applies to “3 non-Asian players” and one “foreigner” who has a passport that’s been recognized by the Asian Football Confederation. Because of the high influx of soccer players from Spain, Brazil, and Australia, the rule’s been reinforced to make sure Indians still had a position in their teams. Besides this rule, the Football Sports Development Ltd. (FSDL) also declared that Indian soccer teams will need at least 4 development local players signed to the starting grid.
Where did the foreign player rule come from?
ISL India adopted the rule from the Asian Football Confederation which was applied to other countries like Japan. Before the committee adopted this rule, however, soccer clubs had around 7 foreigners in their roster and were allowed to field at least 5 in the starting roster. The rule for these foreign players was further recommended and pushed when they saw the scoring of the top players in the league. Unfortunately, during that time, all the top 6 scorers during the season were foreigners with one being Indian Super League Club Hyderabad FC’s striker, Bartholomew Ogeche from Nigeria, and the second one being the ISL Club Mumbai City’s striker — Igor Angulo from Spain. It was then clear to the organizations that Indian players needed more chances to be in the spotlight.
The practice of bringing in Foreign Players
Bringing in foreign players to bolster a team’s chances of success has always been a norm in team sports. It usually occurs when some countries make themselves more well-known for a certain sport. For soccer or football, Spain and Brazil have made themselves so competitive and skilled that they would be brought in to represent other countries. The British side of soccer, also known as Football, had people coming in from Wales and Scotland to play for their teams.
However, that has been quite problematic in the Indian Super League. The majority of the foreign players come from Spain with around 16 of them playing in 7 different soccer clubs. The second country to be imported from is Brazil, having a total of 10 people. Besides Spain and Brazil, Australia also appears to have some players joining the Indian soccer teams with at least 7 out of the 11 ISL India teams having an Australian represent them in the game.
How would this impact the ISL?
The best way to compare the impact of the rule would be through two Asian countries: India being one and Japan being another. Years ago, Japan had the same rule which was considered controversial by many. Some even considered that by limiting the number of foreign players to join, the Japanese soccer league lost some of its footings. However, their recent removal of the said rule in 2019 has caused the Japanese soccer league to come back.
While it does have its advantages in promoting the game that’s highly popular in the West, it does have its disadvantages for many local players. Some of these local players may have been overlooked in favor of existing social contexts such as Spain and Brazil being the home ground for soccer players thus, the preference for players from that country. Another is that some foreign players may have been endorsed by the higher-ups which led to their signing being expedited. With the new rule, ISL hopes that it gives them more room to revolutionize, help, and assist aspiring Indian soccer players to one day achieve their dreams of making it to the big scene.
“The four foreigners regulation will go a long way in redefining Indian football in the years to come. It’s a positive and welcome step that will benefit our Indian players immensely. The change will certainly open up key positions for Indian players in the lineup,” they said in an interview.
Another football administrator mentioned how the ISL always wanted to adapt more “progressive practices” in hopes of improving the league.
“ISL has always exhibited a progressive and adaptive nature to their operations. Since 2014, the organization has improvised on many fronts with each year and today is yet another such example of our forward-looking statement on Indian football,” added a football administrator.
However, this doesn’t mean that the foreign players will be left in the dark. Currently, the football administrations and organizations are coming up with policies that would streamline registration for foreign players.
Creating a more local-friendly competition scene
While victory is something to shoot for, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the local players. Local players have spent their lives just like foreign players dreaming of their chances to play in the big scene. Sadly, it’s only when their talent is recognized by another country that they suddenly gain worth on their own. But the new foreign player rule intends to balance out the benefits by granting a more streamlined process and chances to Indian players so that they will fulfill their dreams of joining the Super League.
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