FC Goa’s Spanish midfielder Edu Bedia believes it is too early to implement Asian Football Confederation’s 3 [Foreigners] + 1 [Asian] player rule in the Indian Super League as it would affect the development of Indian players.
Earlier in May, the All India Football Federation’s technical committee recommended, India’s domestic league competitions, the ISL and I-League to implement AFC’s 3+1 rule from 2021 onwards.
It was recommended keeping in mind the AFC regulations for participating in Asian club competitions, helping Indian clubs get accustomed to the 3 + 1 system. The decision was later ratified by the AIFF’s executive committee with I-League agreeing to implement the change from the 2020-’21 season, while ISL was given an exemption.
Bengaluru FC’s ISL-winning coach Carles Cuadrat earlier raised concerns that the move would put pressure on the players to dish out quality football.
When asked about his assessment of the AFC’s 3+1 rule, Bedia, FC Goa’s longest-serving foreign player, felt the league needs to take gradual steps before putting the rule into effect.
“This will be the seventh season of the ISL, so it’s still a brand new competition,” Bedia told reporters during a conference call on Thursday.
“I think it’s too early to change the rule [3+1] for foreigners [even] as everyone in India wants the league to improve. The foreign players not only provide you with the jump in terms of quality but also improve the Indians – competitively and tactically.
“That’s one of the reasons why most of the coaches are foreigners as they too are a part of the learning [process] for Indian players. We don’t need to rush with this rule but go step by step.”
Bedia, having spent three seasons in India, thinks that Indian players needed to improve their tactical understanding of the game.
“Indian players have potential,” the 31-year-old said. “Technically, there are many good players but still they have to improve tactically. In Europe, there’s not much difference in players in terms of technical quality but the main difference is the tactical [aspect]. That is what India needs to focus on. Technically, all the players are almost same.
‘Need to be patient’
The ISL on Wednesday made it compulsory for clubs to have two developmental team players in their 18-member squad on matchdays for the 2020-’21 season, born in or after 2000 as per the player guidelines by organisers Football Sports Development Limited. Over the past season, only a handful of U-21 Indian players regularly featured for their teams.
One aspect where Bedia felt the league could improve was if clubs focused on grooming footballers from the grassroots level that would ensure a smooth transition for them to the first team.
“The one main step is working from the base – grassroots,” he said. “India needs to be patient and this has happened in European football. You cannot expect the league to improve one year after another. You have to work on the grassroots, be patient with players to reach the highest stage and improve the league. That is what India has to focus on. Changing the rule to 3+1 or 4+1 foreigners won’t make any difference.”
The Spaniard cited an example of how he learnt the technical and tactical nuances as a midfielder at the age of five when he first joined the Racing Santander academy, something he says is missing in India.
“I learnt about my position on the pitch, tactically and technically at my academy and at FC Goa, there are players who joined their academy at 14,” Bedia mentioned. “You have to credit to these players for making to the professional level [from there] even despite starting at 14. But that gap is what India needs to start reducing [in order] to improve.”