Formative years

The ISL has been an excellent asset for the development of Indian football.

India has become one of Asia’s top 20 football teams, partly thanks to the growth of the Indian Super League. But for the country to reach the top 10, more needs to be done in the short, medium, and long term.

“India has made a lot of progress over the last five years,” Parth Jindal, CEO of Indian Super League (ISL) club Bengaluru FC, told DW. “The first goal has to be to get into the top 10 of Asia and then compete with the likes of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Iran.”

The domestic scene has changed in India. In 2019, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided that the Indian Super League (ISL) would replace the I-League as the top tier of the country’s football pyramid.

The ISL has brought a significant amount of money and investment. Infrastructure has greatly improved, and there are now high-quality training grounds and stadiums located throughout the country.

The arrival of major names from Europe and South America has aided the team both on and off the field. It is well-televised and has raised a lot of notice.

Bringing in international players was critical during the league’s early years. However, now that the tournament can stand on its own, the scenario has changed.

The new rules

The Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) has determined that ISL clubs must henceforth field at least seven Indian players at any point during a game, decreasing the number of foreigners from five to four. This is in accordance with AFC club competition regulations and is a good change for Indian footballers.

Six foreigners played in the league’s initial season, and that number was decreased to five in 2017-18. Homegrown players will now be exposed to one more spot in the team.

Clubs are permitted to sign a maximum of six foreign players, one of whom must be from an AFC member country. Clubs can continue to sign marquee players as long as they stay within the League’s authorized classifications.

Every team must have at least one player from an AFC member nation on the roster at all times.

Another significant change is that the FSDL will need clubs to sign at least four developing players. The number remained at two until the 2020-21 season. Two of these developing players will remain in the matchday squad.

The importance

This might be a significant step for the development of Indian football. The extra berth ensures that Indian players get more game time, which enhances their game, while also expanding the pool of players from which the selectors can choose.

Before this, the spine of the team was handled by foreign players. All the commanding and crucial positions were filled in by international talents.

Except for outstanding players like Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan, only a few got the opportunity to pull the strings for the team.

With 7 Indian players a compulsion in the starting 11, it will open up at least one position in every team’s spine, and this is the chance for Indian players to take more responsibility in the team and better their game.

Hopeful for Indian football, this will be a positive change that will bring the best out of Indian footballers!