Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhaichung Bhutia

Kolkata, July 6 (IANS) With the All India Football Federation (AIFF) deciding to increase the number of foreigners per club in the I-League, former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday said the players of the national U-17 team will ned a platform after they are done with the World Cup starting October 6.

Bhutia, who declined to state the exact number of foreigners who should be allowed under revised rules, also said that the players of the AIFF U-19 Academy and the graduates of the Tata Football Academy (TFA) may be affected by this move.

“As far as giving a number is concerned, I cannot comment on that. I think more than the AIFF, it is for the clubs to decide on that. Five of them have written to AIFF asking for the number to be reduced. Let’s see what happens.”

“But there will be 30 players released from the U-17 World Cup team after the tournament. There will be 30 more from the U-19 AIFF Academy who will be looking for clubs, and add another 30 from the Tata Football Academy. So, a total of 90 Indian footballers will need to have clubs where they can play for a long time,” Bhutia, who is an advisor to the AIFF, told IANS here.

“Here, I think both I-League and ISL clubs need to think of Indian football and provide for these youngsters, who will be the future of the national team, a platform to showcase their talents.”

Five clubs, barring East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers and DSK Shivajians, have written to the AIFF opposing the proposed rule to allow eight foreign players in a squad and five in the starting XI, matching the ISL.

The I-League Committee, in a meeting on Wednesday, passed the matter to the Executive Committee to take the final call.

Lauding Indian Super League’s (ISL) decision to trim the number of imports per starting XI to five from six from next season, Bhutia advised young players fresh from academies and the junior World Cup team to choose their clubs wisely and not get lured by more money.

“It’s good that the ISL has reduced the number of foreign players. I think the I-League also needs to keep in mind the betterment of Indian football,” Bhutia said.

“My advice to young players would be to not think of money at the age of 18-19. Say, the India U-17 World Cup team players who will join different clubs after the tournament should not think voluntarily about money at their age.”

“They should sign for clubs where they get maximum exposure and chance to play. This age between 17-19 is the time when you develop the most as a player and if a player who is the future of Indian football joins a club only for the money, he would not do the right thing,” the 40-year old Sikkimese said.

On the AIFF planning an Indians-only league involving Public Sector Units (PSU) and ISL reserves, Bhutia said: “PSU will be good for Indian football as those Indian players will not get a chance to play in the ISL or I-League will get to play here. The PSUs are interested to play and if they can bear the costs, it will be good.”

It was Bhutia who had suggested previously that PSUs like Air India and ONGC be part of the Santosh Trophy.

India on Thursday moved to 96th in FIFA rankings, their best-ever ranking since February 1996. Bhutia signed off by congratulating the Indian team.

“It’s a great achievement. I would like to congratulate the team, coaching staff and the AIFF. The aim should now be going higher up the ladder, maybe 60th.”

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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