Ever since its inception, the Indian Super League has been the zenith for all Indian footballers to showcase their capabilities. Acting as an ambassador of Indian football the ISL pumped in a lot of cash-flow into the footballing scenario, as well as grabbed eyeballs from all over the world when some of the widely reckoned global icons flew down to India, back then sugarcoated as a retiring home.
Years passed, the league expanded to over ten teams, knocking the AFC’s (Asian Football Confederation) doors for clinching a spot in the highest level of the continental action. Participating in an AFC tournament has its own mandates, one of which being the 3+1 rule that limits the number of foreign players in the team.
As stated in the AFC rulebook –
27.1. Each Participating Club may register up to four (4) foreign Participating Players. At least one (1) of these Participating Players must hold the nationality of a Member Association.
Indian football has been quite cognizant of this rule ever since our AFC Cup days, but the significant shift in paradigm was quite evident off late with the Indian clubs getting a direct AFC Champions League group stage spot.
What does this shift imply?
Well to address the elephant in the room, in its very essence the rule aims on promoting the local players. To arrange it mathematically, +1 Indian player would get a sure shot place to feature in the highest level tournament of Asia. With the ISL teams eyeing to adapt to the 4 foreigner dynamics from the 2021-22 season, we can expect at least 11 more localities to get some substantial game time in turn offering more candidatures for the Indian National team.
From the cash-flow perspective, previously the money which was spent on 7 foreigners can now accommodate a player less, effectively allowing the clubs to spend more and more on less and less. A dogma which we can see already being followed by some of the ISL teams like FC Goa, Hyderabad FC, and Chennaiyin FC as they went on to put up a beautiful display in the last season despite fielding just six foreigners throughout.
The National team camp which was conducted soon after is a living proof of the reverberation of the aforementioned factors. We saw as many as six of Hyderabad FC players feature in the final squad which is quite a huge feat. The likes of Sana Singh, Liston Colaco, Akash Mishra just went on incrementing their performance as they got more game time under their belt.
ISL pundit and former Kerala Blasters FC coach, Eelco Schattorie opines, “The 3+1 rule directly implies more Indians can play but at the same time you need a lot more games, say 15 teams that will play 28 games each would have far more impact. Fewer foreigners can also mean that the overall level goes down. To push the level of the game up, we need to focus on two peculiar aspects, which are youth development and the number of games,” which reflects the long-run impact of this rule.
“A small step for FC Goa, a huge leap for Indian Football..”
A valiant display put up by the Gaurs against Laurent Blanc’s Al-Rayyan made a proper statement highlighting the readiness of the Indian clubs to inculcate the 3+1 philosophy across all the verticals.
We saw the likes of Sanson Pereira who had previously earned just a single start throughout the league, went on to step up and put in a brilliant shift. Glan Martins was gusting up and down the pitch like an engine, be it contributing in the defense or be it pressing high for creating an attacking opportunity, it never felt like this FC Goa side was anything less than the one which featured in the ISL.
Seriton, Brandon, Roamario Jesuraj, Ishan Pandita were surely seen upping their individual game covering the hard yards and overall it was quite a fruitful outing on macro terms.
If we retrospect, this change will only better the chances of the Indian teams to acclimatize better in the longer run. The orthodox central positions which were rather reserved for the foreign contingent over the years would open up for homegrown players. Who knows, maybe we could fetch more of some center halves, central midfielders, and probably a few more strikers as well! Time will be the best proponent, until then let us know what you feel on our handles tagged herein.
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