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Foreign Players in the Indian Super League- Progress and Impact

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Football is the true definition of a global sport. For the players and the fans, the World is our pitch. Every corner of the Earth you go to, you will find a team or a supporter or fanbase that breathes Football. As a true football fan, it’s the atmosphere, the emotion, the heart-to-heart connection with the club’s crest. A Football fan lives in another world but it’s a world they would never want to leave.

While incidents and external issues cause other sports to bar players from other countries, Football is open to anyone. Indian Football did not have a strong fanbase prior to the Indian Super League. Among the rather few football fans in the country, the Premier League and other established leagues were followed more closely.

The Indian Super League was an instant hit and they owe much of it to the incredible talent sourced from all over. The International signings and coaches were the ones who would bring in the fanbase. The first edition of the tournament saw players like Marco Materazzi and David James take the field much to the excitement of the fans. They were an instant hit and thus the fanbase of Indian Football began to grow.

Foreign Players in the Indian Super League- Progress and Impact

Impact on Local talent

Prior to the Indian Super League, the I-League was the national league. While they did have a good number of foreign players, they were not Premier League players or World Cup Winners. In players like Marco Materazzi (who was the manager as well) and David James, the local players were given the best guidance.

Alessandro Del Piero, Elano Blumer and Luis Garcia were just a few others who were a part of the very first season. Elano, Chennaiyin FC’s marquee signing, finished the inaugural season as the winner of the Golden Boot. With the kind of experience brought in by these players, the local talent improved and so did the fanbase grow.

Foreign Players in the Indian Super League- Progress and Impact

Apart from Khalid Jamil for NorthEast FC last season, every team has had a foreign head coach over the years. Antonio Lopez, Albert Roca, Steve Coppel, Carlos Cuadrat, Zico and Sergio Lobera are a few prominent names. These coaches have brought in their own tactics that suit the players and have had great success with their club. Once a coach settles, he knows which players he has to bring in to improve the performance of the players around him.

Foreign Players in the Indian Super League over the years

When the league began back in 2014, a maximum of 5 Indian players were allowed at the time. This meant that the foreign players had a better chance of playing than the local talent. However, that did not matter as the league was just growing and needed the extra boost from more experienced and established players.

From the 2017/18 season, the season they were finally recognised by FIFA and AFC, the limit went up to 7. By this time, the coaches and fans began to believe in the local talent as well. Any absence of players like Sunil Chhetri or Mandar Rao Dessai were major talking points. This steady progress was reflected in the performance of the National Team on the International stage.

Foreign Players in the Indian Super League- Progress and Impact

However, from this season, the club have to follow the 3+1 rule. The rule states that clubs can play only 4 foreign players at a time with one of them being an AFC player. This is in hope that the league will benefit the local players better. The idea is good but is Indian Football equally well structured to go ahead with this? As long as clubs are allowed to grow in a biased manner, players will develop in a biased manner.

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