National football team head coach Igor Stimac is not happy with more foreign players featuring in a match in Indian Super League and I-League, saying it was coming in the way of the country producing a future Sunil Chhetri.
Stimac said the ISL and I-League, the country's first and second tier leagues, should follow Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) policy of allowing a maximum of four foreign players in a match instead of the five permitted by them currently. "My suggestion for top tier (league) in the country is to follow AFC rule of 3+1, that's the basic rule for number of foreign players. It's not strange that that most successful Asian countries are following that rule and that is why they are successful," Stimac said at a media briefing here.
"That is why they have option for national team to have strikers, offensive midfielders and the centre-backs," he added. Currently, ISL and I-League teams can field five foreign players at a given time in a match.
On the other hand, AFC Champions League competition rules state that "each participating club may register four foreign players but at least one must have the nationality of an AFC member association". Stimac said in the current situation, it was difficult to get replacement for star striker Chhetri. "We will never find a replacement for Chhetri if the situation is like this. We cannot take someone who has never played as a striker and put him in the national team. Where am I going to find a striker? Even in I-League, there are five foreign players. "We don't have (Indian) strikers in I-League. Only Indian Arrows is putting (striker) Vikram (Pratap Singh) to play. We are in a big problem. We need to start changing the things in favour of national team."
The Croatian said "It would be ideal to merge the two leagues (ISL and I-League)". The Indian team is out of reckoning for a 2022 World Cup berth but Stimac said the country will have a chance to qualify for the 2026 edition. "To wake up India in football, we need national team success. And there is a big chance in front of us, the 2026 World Cup. There will be 48 countries involved, which means there will be another 3-4-5 places for Asian countries to participate," the head coach said.
"We have four years to prepare ourselves and be in the top 8 in Asia," he added. Stimac said he did not have any information about cancellation of national camp in Bhubaneswar, ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Qatar on March 26, due to outbreak of novel coronavirus.
World football governing body FIFA on Thursday proposed postponing all the upcoming 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Cup qualifiers, including India's home game against Qatar, due to the rising coronavirus threat. "We are focused with proceedings with the camp as we have no official information on what is going to happen. Some games have been cancelled. We have the calendar till the end of the year, but it is not in our hands (on hat will happen)," he said. "I was excited about the calendar which was made, using April and May for preparation, going to Turkey to play five friendly games, and now everything is the air (due to coronavirus)," he signed off.