India AFC

AIFF suggests ISL, I-League follow AFC’s foreign player rule from 2021-22 season

The AIFF Technical Committee on Friday recommended the Indian Super League and the I-League to follow the guidelines of the Asian Football Confederation and stick to the 3+1 foreigner’s rule from the 2021-’22 season.

The governing body’s Shyam Thapa-led technical committee endorsed the continentally-endorsed 3+1 (three overseas and one Asian) rule in an online meeting following a steadily growing voice within the country’s footballing fraternity to limit the role of foreigners in the domestic structure.

The AFC rule suggests that a maximum of four foreign players, including one from an AFC member nation can be part of the playing eleven.

Until the 2019-’20 season, Indian clubs were allowed to register a maximum of five foreign players in the line-up while a maximum of seven overseas players could be allowed in the squad.

The clubs could register a maximum of seven and a minimum of six non-Indian players if their annual salaries didn’t exceed the salary cap.

Earlier, Indian national team coach Igor Stimac had also backed AIFF to implement AFC’s 3+1 foreign player policy, who said the rule would help local players receive more game time.

“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.

The Technical Committee also felt that it isn’t appropriate to discuss the PIO/OCI rule allowing players of Indian origin to represent India but said it will wait for clarity from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports before the topic can be discussed at a later stage.

The recommendations will have to be approved by AIFF’s executive committee to come into effect. National coach Igor Stimac and his Croatia counterpart Zlatko Dalić have also advocated the implementation of the 3+1 rule for the betterment of Indian football.

Since COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended the current season and threw the entire footballing schedule into a shroud of uncertainty and taking into account contractual obligations of ISL franchises, the 3+1 rule couldn’t be implemented from the 2020-21 season. The foreigners count will not be tampered with for the upcoming season.