The All India Football Federation may see nothing wrong in allowing five foreigners in each I-League club from this season but national football captain Bhaichung Bhutia feels that the new rule will let one too many overseas players to compete in the event.
Each I-League can have four foreigners, including one Asian, and a Person of Indian Origin (PIO), but Bhutia said four should have been enough.
"They (AIFF) are the authority and it is upto them to decide how many foreigners should be there (in the I-League). But I would have preferred only three foreigners," Bhutia said.
"An additional PIO is all right. Too many foreigners will reduce the number of Indian players in the I-League," he said late last night after his felicitation by the AIFF for playing 100 international matches, during the Nehru Cup in August.
Bhutia said the AFC rule allowing clubs in the Asian Champions League to have a player of Asian origin in their rolls could benefit countries like Japan, Australia and South Korea and not India, which is among developing countries of the game in the continent.
"Since India is still a developing country of the game, more Asian players are likely to come here instead of our players going out to play in Asian countries. So, the rule of one Asian among foreign recruits could be beneficial to clubs of Japan, Australia, South Korea but not India," Bhutia reasoned.
In his felicitation speech, Bhutia said but for national coach Bob Houghton, he would not have played 100 matches for the country.
"But for Houghton, I would not have played 100 matches for the country. He convinced me to change my mind (of quitting the game)," he said referring to his contemplation to retire in 2006 after his fall out with the then coach Syed Nayeemuddin.
Looking back at his football career when he first donned East Bengal colours in 1993 at the age of 16, Bhutia said, "I started with East Bengal at a salary of Rs 4,000 and now things have changed. I hope many more players play 100 matches for the country in future. For that we need to play more international matches."
Asked if players should also have representatives in the AIFF decision making bodies like the General Body, Bhutia disclosed that newly-elected president Praful Patel will discuss in Kolkata next month how the grievances of the players can be addressed.
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