Indian players are ready to manage with one less foreigner: Westwood

Former Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood felt that the decisions taken by the ISL are beneficial to Indian footballers.

Ashley Westwood praised the impact of ISL in improving the standards of Indian football.

Indian players have shown remarkable improvement in the last seven years and are “ready to manage with one less foreigner,” feels former Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood. Hailing the changes brought in by the Indian Super League, which includes reducing the number of foreigners and giving teams more games (27) in the league stage, Westwood felt that the dynamics brought about by ISL is creating a better football ecosystem both in terms of infrastructure and in the standard of the game.

“ISL has definitely produced an atmosphere that is creating a buzz around Indian football. It has brought about a different dynamic attracting more expensive foreigners. Even the Indian players are making more money that what they did in the I-League,” Westwood, who guided Bengaluru FC to two I-league titles, said.

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The English coach said the Indian players have made lot of improvement in the last six-seven years since the ISL was conceived.

“Indian players have improved so much in the seven years that it is the right time to bring the foreigners down. Martin Bain, who is in charge of the ISL, is doing a good job. He is aware that the league is there to improve Indian football. Now the Indian boys are ready to manage with one less foreigner because the standard of Indian football has improved compared to what it was seven years ago,” Westwood said congratulating the League and its new CEO.

When asked about the time when Indian players start getting overseas contracts, Westwood said it will happen with the improvement process.

“The time will come for sure if the culture and standard keeps getting better over the years. At this moment is difficult for Indian players to go out and play bigger leagues as in Europe, the kids start at the age of five or six and play football seven days a week. They have far more opportunities to play. In India the facilities are improving, the academies are improving and the clubs are improving too."

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"As long as the players get good playing time they are going to improve more. But to compare an Indian player with a European boy at this minute is a perhaps a little bit too soon,” he said.

Westwood, who also worked as a technical director and coach with ATK later in his ISL stint, said ISL has done well as an improvement over I-league.

“Football moves in different directions all the time. If you look at 1992 when Premier League was born in England, the English football made a lot of adjustments. That is the way football is evolving in India where the ISL is seen as an improvement over the I-League. But you still have I-League which has another set of teams. So it makes more teams than what you had when only the I-League was around,” he said about the current arrangement.  

About the concept of increasing the matches for ISL teams, Westwood said it would be the step in the right direction.

“The think tank of ISL may have been looking at the options of having more matches before the pandemic struck. The concept is about the teams playing each other three times like you have in A-League where the teams get to play 27 games. That should be happening in India when it thinks of improving participation in the international competitions."

"The domestic scene should have more longevity.  In England you can play 60 games a season and Indian domestic calendar should back up its players and give them more games in a season. You see the players like Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney have played over 1000 games suggesting that the more football you play, the better you get,” Westwood said.

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