Most of the Indian players do not want to be part of the Indian Super League (ISL) draft scheduled next month, but they have no choice, the Football Players’ Association of India (FPAI) has said.
“The draft has two problems. One, they might be left poorer. Two, they don’t have the right to choose their own team or be part of any bargain,” FPAI General Manager Cyrus Confectioner told IANS on Wednesday.
The ISL franchises will roughly have a budget of £21 million per team.
At a meeting after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) awards night recently, AIFF President Praful Patel spoke against the draft system, Confectioner said.
“But one week later, we get to hear that there will be a draft. If the president has no control over his statements, what can we say,” he rued.
“Eighty-ninety percent of the players don’t want the draft. But it’s a Catch-22 situation. ISL clubs might anyway pay more than I-League clubs, barring East Bengal and Mohun Bagan maybe. And if the FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited, organisers of ISL) forces a draft on them, they have little option but to be part of it. They cannot forego a year’s pay.”
India skipper Sunil Chhetri, former India and Mohun Bagan star Renedy Singh, and former India skipper and FPAI ex-President Bhaichung Bhutia are learnt to have opposed a draft system, and Reliance Sports CEO Sundar Raman responded that the matter would be looked into.
But with the draft set to take place somewhere in the middle of July, that seems to be a foregone conclusion.
The FPAI’s efforts in reducing the number of foreign players from six to five in the starting XI of an ISL team has borne fruit. This year, the ISL teams will be allowed to field a maximum of only five foreigners.
Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal had also appealed to AIFF Secretary Kushal Das earlier this month to increase the quota of foreign players for the I-League clubs to five from the existing four.
The issue will be up for discussion in the committee meeting scheduled for Thursday. At present, I-League clubs follow the guidelines laid down by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which allow clubs to take on a maximum of four foreign players, of whom at least one must be from an Asian country.
Confectioner is, however, hoping that the I-League turns down the demand to increase the number of imports.
“I hope the AIFF does not commit that mistake. There has to be more Indian players playing,” he said.
Confectioner said the FPAI has been pushing for a no-draft case since January, but to no avail.
“The FSDL will anyway do as they please, as the ISL is a private tournament,” he said.