It is no secret that success in I-League depends upon the quality of the foreigners, esp. the strikers. 2010-11 I-league saw a record no. of 489 goals, where Indians scored only 210 goals. Given the fact, most of the forwards starting in first XI of I league clubs are foreigners, Indian strikers get much less chance to prove themselves (This year Indian Arrows being an exception) and consequently, we are unable to produce good strikers with few exceptions.
Every year Indian fans wish to see how many goals are scored by Indians. Last year ~41% of the goals were scored by Indians, this year with the introduction of Indian Arrows, it was expected that this percentage would increase. Although the percentage has increased, it still is only ~43%. However, if we take out Indian Arrows from the equation, and only consider the matches played between the remaining 13 teams, the percentage dips down to ~41%, clearly indicating that there’s no improvement in Indian goal scoring rate and the only way to get Indian scoring rate high was by introducing a team without any foreigners (Indian Arrows).
Let’s analyze the trends seen in last 4 I-Leagues. If you check the pictorial representation below, you will notice, apart from 2008-09, for the other three seasons, the Indians are scoring between 40-42% and there is no improvement with time.
So, what happened in 2008-09:
Firstly, let’s keep in mind that the increase is little (~47%). That year, I-League saw talents like Sunil Chetri (9 Goals), Sushil Singh, Subhash Singh, Kalia Kuluthongan (all 7 Goals) and of course the evergreen Bhaichung (7 Goals) was there. Apart from Bhaichung and Sunil, what happened to others? Well, we don’t need to elaborate and explain the virtues of warming the bench for years and then making a comeback as duds!
Is I-League success = Good Foreigners?
Let’s check out the top half of I league table
From the stats above, one can easily make out that, when it comes to scoring goals, top teams hardly rely on the Indians. For most teams, Indian scorers had contributed less than 30%, Salgaocar barely making it to 30%, while Mumbai FC, who have scored much less goals and are 7th placed rely slightly more on Indians. One welcome exception is Kolkata giants, East Bengal, who inspite of being 2nd in I-league had almost half of their goals scored by Indians, in the process, promoting Indian strikers like Robin Singh and Baljit Singh Sahni. Interesting to note, the East Bengal coach is a Brit!
Now, take a look at the situation of the clubs of the bottom half
The message is loud and clear – The bottom teams are the one’s who didn’t have foreigners who can score bulk of the goals and were dependent on Indian scorers. ONGC is one exception who could only score a total of 25 goals, Indians scoring only 5!
It is perhaps time for AIFF to take steps to decrease the number of foreigners. Rumors were that AIFF initially thought of having one foreigner less this season, but later reverted back to the previous format. Indian Arrows clearly is the example of how home grown players can find form. Jeje, for example, scored only 1 goal in first half of the league. What would have happened, if Jeje had played in one of the other clubs? Well, you know better – BENCHED! But repetitive chances unraveled his true potential. This has been the story for many Indian strikers in past, who got only few chances and were benched for not scoring enough goals. One Indian Arrows team is not enough, the other clubs need to develop players too. But how can we blame them. Teams like Viva Kerala and HAL which mainly depend on Indian scorers were fighting relegation, while teams with the likes of Odafa, Ranti, Yakubu, Tolgay were leading. Now, we can’t blame these teams if they invest majorly on foreign strikers, next season. AIFF needs to device strategies, like introducing salary caps or having less no. of foreigners to develop home players.
Till then we can only hope to see our boys carrying their clubs on their own shoulders to I League glory.
More on I League stats, Click here : Complete I-League Statistics
We would like to thank Kolkatafootball.com for maintaining a database for previous years, which helped us in our analysis