The All India Football Federation has decided to once more change the rules regarding foreign players playing for Indian football clubs. For the 2010/11 season clubs have been allowed to sign and register four foreigners, three from anywhere in the world plus one Asian. This means there is no longer a spot for PIOs (Players of Indian Origin) within the new framework.
The clubs are allowed to sign their 3+1 foreigners for I-League (Premier & 2nd Division), Federation Cup, All India Tournaments (e.g. Durand Cup, IFA Shield) and local leagues only for this season. But there is a twist in the rule. Out of the four foreigners only three can be in the actual playing XI for any macthes of these leagues and tournaments.
Foreign players are an issue around the world. And it doesn't have to be Asia, it is the same in Europe or North America. In India there have been ongoing discussions on reducing the number of foreigners for years with national coach Bob Houghton at the forefront, but when the Asian Football Confederation set the new rule in place of 3+1 in their continental club competitions, it meant that India would have to follow this rule otherwise our clubs taking part in the AFC Champions League or the AFC Cup would be at a disadvantage.
Before that the discussions were going the way of only allowing two foreigners to play in India to give more Indian talent the chance to play top level football. Bob Houghton's thinking was to give especially more strikers the chance to play. Take e.g. Mohun Bagan who have a foreign strike force of Jose Ramirez Barreto, Chidi Edeh, Subair Muritala Ali. Three top strikers in their own right and this would normally mean limited playing time for young talented Jagtar Singh, who signed for the green-and-maroon from the Tata Football Academy. But now with the three out of four foreigners rule Mohun Bagan will have to decide if it will play these three foreigners (so far no Asian defender has been signed) or bench one of them and at least as a substitute give Jagtar a chance. A difficult decision that coach Stanley Rozario will have to take at each and every match.
And this decision of allowing only three of the four foreigners to play will surely be contested by the clubs. Signing foreigners for hefty fees does not mean keeping them on the bench or on the galleries. Lets see who starts shouting first...