Kushal Das: Ideal to follow 3+1 AFC foreigner rule in ISL, I-League

In an exclusive interview, Kushal Das, the AIFF general secretary, spoke about the possibility of implementing the 3+1 AFC foreigner rule in ISL and I-League.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das.   -  Getty Images

Three Indian clubs -- FC Goa, now-merged ATK-Mohun Bagan and Chennaiyin FC -- will play in next season's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tournaments.

These clubs which are used to playing with five foreigners in their starting XIs in their domestic leagues -- ISL and I-League --, will now have to adhere to AFC's 3+1 foreign player rule [one player should be from an AFC confederation].

Speaking to Sportstar, All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das hopes the Indian clubs will perform well in the continental competitions to improve India's ranking in Asia.

Three Indian clubs -- FC Goa, ATK-Mohun Bagan, Chennaiyin FC -- will be competing in Asian club football from 2021. Your thoughts on that…

I think it is a wonderful chance for Indian club football to make a mark and improve India’s ranking in Asia. I hope the clubs take advantage and prepare diligently for 2021. India is currently ranked 20th in Asia, which has gone down from 15th in 2019 because of indifferent form by Indian clubs in current AFC club competitions. It is important that clubs also prioritise their performances in Asian club events.

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The 3+1 stipulation in AFC (regarding foreigners in the first XI) will apply to the participating Indian clubs in the AFC competitions next season. Do you see that being replicated in the domestic level?

The rule applies to all Indian clubs playing in AFC club competitions. We are also in discussion internally to find the right mix. It would be ideal to follow the AFC rule (foreigners and locals), but certain considerations like quality of play, fan engagement, attendances and TV viewership need to be kept in mind. We (AIFF) will be discussing with all the stakeholders to come up with an appropriate rule before the beginning of next season.

The ATK players celebrate after winning a record third ISL title.   -  PTI

 

Do you think it is time the AIFF nudges the ISL organising body to introduce 3+1 rule?

The ISL successfully completed six seasons, which has been very beneficial for Indian football. As I said, we need to have detailed discussions with the stakeholders to find the right structure, keeping in mind various considerations. We plan to do it before next season and which will then be applicable to all top level club football in India.

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Do you feel by reducing the foreigners in first XI (from five to four), clubs will sign foreigners of higher quality?

I think that should be quite obvious. Having lesser foreign players with better quality will not only raise the level of play but also help Indians develop, get more opportunities and game time. These are all part of discussions we plan to have with the stakeholders (Reliance, Star India are co-promoters of the league, supported by the national federation).

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