Indian men's football coach Igor Stimac says ISL and I-League should follow AFC policy of allowing four foreign players in a match
Stimac said he did not have any information about cancellation of national camp in Bhubaneswar, ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Qatar on 26 March, due to the outbreak of coronavirus
Stimac said the ISL and I-League should follow the AFC policy of allowing a maximum of four foreign players in a match instead of the current five
Stimac said in the current situation, it was difficult to get a replacement for star striker Chhetri
The Indian team is virtually out of the reckoning for a 2022 World Cup berth but Stimac said the country will have a chance to qualify for the 2026 edition
Mumbai: National football team head coach Igor Stimac is not happy with more foreign players featuring in a match in the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League, saying it was coming in the way of the country producing a future Sunil Chhetri.
Stimac said the ISL and I-League, the country's first and second-tier leagues, should follow the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) policy of allowing a maximum of four foreign players in a match instead of the five permitted by them currently.
"My suggestion for the top tier (league) in the country is to follow AFC rule of 3+1, that's the basic rule for the number of foreign players. It's not strange that that most successful Asian countries are following that rule and that is why they are successful," Stimac said at a media briefing.
"That is why they have an option for the national team to have strikers, offensive midfielders and the centre-backs," he added.
Currently, ISL and I-League teams can field five foreign players at a given time in a match. On the other hand, AFC Champions League competition rules state that "each participating club may register four foreign players but at least one must have the nationality of an AFC member association".
Stimac said in the current situation, it was difficult to get a replacement for star striker Chhetri.
"We will never find a replacement for Chhetri if the situation is like this. We cannot take someone who has never played as a striker and put him in the national team. Where am I going to find a striker? Even in the I-League, there are five foreign players.
"We don't have (Indian) strikers in I-League. Only Indian Arrows is putting (striker) Vikram (Pratap Singh) to play. We are in a big problem. We need to start changing the things in favour of the national team."
The Croatian said, "it would be ideal to merge the two leagues (ISL and I-League)".
The Indian team is out of the reckoning for a 2022 World Cup berth but Stimac said the country will have a chance to qualify for the 2026 edition.
"To wake up India in football, we need national team success. And there is a big chance in front of us, the 2026 World Cup. There will be 48 countries involved, which means there will be another 3-4-5 places for Asian countries to participate," the head coach said.
"We have four years to prepare ourselves and be in the top 8 in Asia," he added.
Stimac said he did not have any information about cancellation of national camp in Bhubaneswar, ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Qatar on 26 March, due to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus .
World football governing body FIFA on Thursday proposed postponing all the upcoming 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Cup qualifiers, including India's home game against Qatar, due to the rising coronavirus threat.
"We are focused on proceedings with the camp as we have no official information on what is going to happen. Some games have been cancelled. We have the calendar till the end of the year, but it is not in our hands," he said.
"I was excited about the calendar which was made, using April and May for preparation, going to Turkey to play five friendly games, and now everything is the air (due to coronavirus )," he signed off.
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