Former Indian captain I.M. Vijayan believes the new ISL regulation — increasing the number of Indians in the playing XI to seven from six — is a move in the right direction. From next season, a team can only field four foreigners in an ISL match.
“The ISL administrators have done the right thing,” Vijayan told The Hindu on Wednesday. “That is the way forward for Indian football.”
Bino George, former coach of Gokulam Kerala who is in talks with an ISL team, also thinks the new ratio is the right one for India’s premier football league.
“But I hope there will be no further reduction in the number of foreigners,” he said. “The ISL has become what it is because of the quality players from abroad. Now that there will be seven Indians in the XI, it is a boost to local talent.”
Vijayan said the change in rules was bound to benefit the Indian players. “At the moment there is nothing that will help an Indian footballer more than the experience of playing in the ISL,” said the former striker who is among the fastest goalscorers in international football.
“If our national team is performing better these days, the ISL is the main reason for that.”
Talking of the national team, he said he was impressed with the way it has fared so far at the World Cup qualifiers in Doha. After losing by a solitary goal to Qatar in the first match, India defeated Bangladesh 2-0 on Monday.
Pat for Chhetri
“I thought the Indians fought hard against Qatar and were superb against Bangladesh in that must-win encounter,” said Vijayan. “Sunil Chhetri was brilliant. I loved both the goals he scored against Bangladesh.”
He said Chhetri had been doing a great service to Indian football for so long. “I have always admired his commitment and dedication,” Vijayan said.
“However, he is now 36 and may be available for another two years. India needs to think of new players, though it will be difficult to find another striker like Chhetri.”