While the I-League is set to undergo the change in foriegn policy from the upcoming season itself, the top flight of Indian football, the Indian Super League (ISL) will witness the reduction of foreigners from the 2021-22 season. Clubs will be allowed to sign only four foreigners, one of which has to be from an Asian country.
It is no secret that lack of quality strikers, other than captain Sunil Chhetri, has hurt the Indian national football team time and again in the recent past. Experts, pundits and coaches have often pointed out that apart from Chhetri, who by the way is not getting any younger, there is no one to rack up the goals.
There could be multiple solutions to this but the one that most hold in the highest of regards is, ‘REDUCE THE NUMBER OF FOREIGNERS’. National team head coach Igor Stimac has long been an advocate of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) mandated 3+1 rule and recently, after weeks of speculation, it was announced that the number of foreigners in a squad will be reduced.
Stimac believes that this change will bring in a lot of positives for Indian football, maybe even solve the ‘lack of striker’ problem. “The new foreign policy should help us develop more competition in striking positions and, hopefully, in the next four years, we are going to witness new goal-scorers come up,” he told the Telegraph.
The ISL, until last season, allowed a maximum of 7 foreigners in a squad and a minimum of 6 foreigners. I-League clubs could have a maximum of six but both leagues allowed only five foreigners on the pitch at any given time during a game. Now, with five foreigners in the line-up, most coaches would prefer to use big name strikers in the starting XI rather than giving young domestic players a chance to prove themselves.
Many believe that talented Indian youngsters, who could have been good strikers, are often pushed to play on the flanks. That is why Stimac has so many options when it comes to wingers.
The Indian football team will resume their campaign in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which also doubles up as the qualification tournament for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, later this year after all matches were postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.