FIFA has recently released a report that said India had the maximum number of incoming transfers in Asia during 2017 ahead of the likes of Japan, China and Thailand. The news has certainly left people surprised considering the fact that India has less than half the number of professional clubs compared to those countries.
This season there has been a 32.8% rise in the incoming transfers to India. Though the 2017-18 season of ISL has seen a decrease in the number of foreign players to 8, there has been an increase in the number of foreigners in the Hero I-league.
A major reason for the increase in the high number of incoming transfers is due to the high number of foreign players being allowed to play for a club compared to other Asian countries. Another reason for this is due to clubs releasing players in the middle of the season. More than 20 players have been released in the middle of this season by ISL and I-League clubs.
Indian clubs are overdependence on the foreign players and when the results don’t go their way and the club is having a poor run of form the foreign players become an easy target for the clubs. While there is a trend in Europe for the managers getting the sack when results don’t go your way, there is a much bigger trend in India of foreigners getting the sack. The foreign players usually take home the full salary when they are released and the clubs end up with losses.
This is due to poor scouting and recruitment done by the clubs. The management hardly ever watches players playing a game and most of the players are signed based on their CV, YouTube videos or stats online sent to them by the player’s agents. YouTube videos are generally a compilation of a player’s best moments in his career and they don’t highlight how good a player really is.
There have been instances is the past where the Wikipedia page of players were edited with fake stats just to push their transfer to I-league clubs. But through the years clubs have become smart and Wikipedia isn’t considered an option whilst making transfers.
Even Bengaluru FC who were praised for their professionalism over the years made a big blunder in transfers last season when they signed Honduran international forward Roby Norales. Norales was signed after the season had started and was sort of a panic buy after BFC failed in signing their initial target, an Argentine Striker who rejected them for a Mexican club. Norales couldn’t fit into Albert Roca’s system and was replaced by Marijan Jugovic who wasn’t match fit when he arrived. Bengaluru FC were again forced to sign Cornell Glenn for the Federation Cup due to an injury to Jugovic.
Only 5 out of 19 ISL and I-League Clubs (Arrows not included since they cannot sign foreign players) this season haven’t released any of their players mid season which shows the poor state of recruitment in the country.
Releasing players in the middle of the season is something which is common across Asia due to the limitations in the number of foreign players to be signed. Some Thai clubs bring players on trails during pre-season before signing. This is a strategy which Thai Champions Buriram United have been following over the years. Only a handful of Indian clubs consider bringing players on trails before signing them.
Injuries are another reason why players end up getting released. With the number of foreigners being limited, the players are released even if the injury keeps them out only for a month or two. But the clubs end up signing poor replacements in a hurry.
One such instance was during the 2013-14 season of the I-league. Sporting Club de Goa was on a dream run: they had won the Goa Pro League and were 2nd in the league before the mid-season break. In the Federation Cup semi-finals against Dempo in Kerala, an unfit Spanish midfielder Arturo Navarro Garcia who was on the bench came on as a substitute. He scored two goals and took his team to the finals but got himself injured in this process. He was the key to Sporting’s success that season and was rated amongst the best players in the league. He was out for just over a month. Sporting released him to sign Nigerian midfielder Martins Ekwueme based on the player’s CV which was badly misleading and player ended up being a flop. Sporting’s season ended in a misery as they finished 5th in the league.
Another important factor in transfers is the players’ agents. One of the major reasons for the Indian Super League bringing back the draft system was to bring down the inflated salaries which agents had created. We had a market where the Indian Super League teams had paid up to 10 times more than what a player received in the I-league. Reliance wanted to bring about a correction in the market. And we had reported this issue last year.
The issue of foreign players and their transfers needs to be taken seriously by all stakeholders of Indian football considering the fact that running a football club in Indian is hardly profitable and clubs over the years have suffered huge losses. Along with other factors, it can have an impact in preparing the roadmap of football in this country.
Stats According to FIFA
India 158 (+32.8%)
Japan 152 (+18.8%)
China PR 143 (-10.1%)
Thailand 124 (+26.5%)
Saudi Arabia 113 (+32.9%)