Nigerian Ezekiel Oroh played a prominent role as Kerala United FC won its maiden Kerala Premier League (KPL) title at Kalpetta in March. He also walked away with the player of the tournament award while Gokulam Kerala’s Samuel Mensah, from Ghana, finished as the league’s top goal-getter.
Foreign players have sparkled in the KPL for the last 10 years but as the league’s 11th edition begins at Malappuram’s Kottapadi Stadium on Saturday, they will all be missing this time.
In April, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had decided not to allow foreign players in State or district leagues and this will be the first KPL without them.
So how will the KPL, currently Kerala’s top league since the Kerala Super League is yet to start, be without them?
“The big gap will be in the strikers’ section, the goals will come down,” Navas Meeran, the Kerala Football Association president, told Sportstar.
FOREIGNERS MANAGE THE FLOW OF THE GAME BETTER
Meanwhile Muhammed Noufal, the captain of KPL defending champion Kerala United, feels that things will not be easy.
“Last year, having two foreign midfielders and a striker was beneficial for us because foreigners have the experience to manage the rhythm of the game,” said the 31-year-old centre-back from Kasargod.
“Life without foreign players is a problem but we have very talented youngsters, some with even I-League experience, who can help us recover. I think we can manage.”
However, the AIFF’s move should help KPL teams breathe easier on the financial front.
“Without foreign players, we can bring down our budget by some 40 per cent...by around Rs 15 lakh,” said Shameem Backer, the owner of Wayanad United FC which stunningly topped the KPL’s super six stage and entered the semifinal last year.”
While the KPL will be without foreigners, the big-budget Kerala Super League – which is likely to start late next year – will have them.
A couple of weeks after passing the no-foreigners-in-the-State-leagues rule, the AIFF gave the KSL an exemption in late April as a special case.
“They (the KFA) have been given an exemption because of the prior commercial deal they have signed to start the Kerala Super League. We don’t want them to rescind an agreement made earlier and we don’t want to jeopardise any commercial deal,” Shaji Prabhakaran, the then AIFF secretary general, had told Sportstar in April
- Senior Men’s National Championship: Karnataka, Manipur, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh win on Day 4
- Kerala Premier League starts new life without foreign players
- Indian sports news wrap, November 20
- Jannik Sinner has his sights set on serving up more success next season after ATP Finals loss against Djokovic
- AITA to host a string of international events at home