Opposition from national football coach Bob Houghton and captain Bhaichung Bhutia has led to a rethink by the All India Football Federation on the five-foreigner quota in the I-League. The AIFF has also sought views of state associations on the issue.
The AIFF had allowed each I-League club to recruit five foreigners, including an Asian and a People of Indian Origin, beginning this season, a move which has come under severe criticism from both Houghton and Bhutia on the ground that the rule reduced the pool of Indian players in the league.
Houghton had made it clear during the Annual General Body Meeting of the AIFF on October 20 in New Delhi that the five-foreigner rule would only harm the interests of Indian players. He was particularly unimpressed by the PIO quota.
Bhutia also felt the five-foreigner rule saw one too many overseas players in the I-League.
He said, after his felicitation by the AIFF for playing 100 international matches, that the Asian player quota, mandatory under Asian Football Confederation rules for clubs playing in the AFC Champions League, would not benefit a football developing country like India.
AIFF General Secretary Alberto Colaco has written a letter to all the state associations to furnish their views on the issue before the end of next month.
Vice-President of the national body, AR Khaleel said there were suggestions within the AIFF that reduction in the quota of foreigners will not only increase the number of Indian players in the I-League but will also spare money for the clubs to spend on infrastructure building.
"One concern is the reduced number of Indian players in the I-League due to this five-foreigner rule. For example, who will replace Bhaichung Bhutia or Sunil Chhetri if most of the strikers in the I-League are foreigners?
"Secondly, most of the clubs are spending around 10 per cent of their yearly budget on buying foreigners and not even one per cent for infrastructure. So, by reducing the number of foreigners the money could be used for building facilities for players. This is one view doing the rounds," said Khaleel, who is also President of Karnataka Football Association.