Although last year’s Indian Super League (ISL) saw an extension to its schedule, India’s national football team head coach Igor Štimac believes that the domestic league format could still do with expansion as it would help players in the long-run.
Even after a year since he took over the helm of Indian football, the Croatian tactician indicated that he still remains excited about the job where he managed to shift the focus “from a kick and chase football to a more possession-based football”.
But still, he believes that much more needs to be done to uplift India from a FIFA ranking of 108 — mainly, having a long-term calendar season incorporated with the Durand Cup and the Super Cup.
“We cannot stop our season at the end of February and football needs to be played until mid-May. I am told that it cannot happen as it overlaps with the broadcast of the Indian Premier League (IPL) but broadcast is not important. What is important is that players play more games to improve their football and bring more quality to the national team,” said Štimac in an interview with WION.
Apart from the longevity of the domestic leagues, the number of foreign players active in ISL and I-League is a matter of worry for the 52-year-old too.
“I am feeling depressed and tired at repeatedly saying we have to reduce the number of foreign players in Indian domestic football. If the government can change the citizenship regulations, then we can get 7-8 players of Indian origin who are playing abroad and that would change our results dramatically,” said the 1998 World Cup semi-finalist.
Earlier this month, the AIFF’s Technical Committee recommended implementing the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) “3+1” rule in order to reduce the number of foreign players in the leagues. The issue of inclusion of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) in the national teams were also discussed.
Although India has made progress under Štimac with their positional play and pressing routine, the results have been rather dispiriting, but the goalless draw against Qatar at Doha remains a high point in his reign.
Ever since March 24, football in India has been brought to a complete stop with the I-League season being called off later on. The national team’s FIFA World Cup 2022 home-leg qualifier against defending Qatar has been postponed too.