Indian Football Team's head coach Stephen Constantine has vehemently criticised the Indian Super League for its over-reliance on foreign players and has stated that he expects the Indian players to be at the forefront in the lucrative league.
The eight franchisee teams in the ISL can field as many as six foreign players in the starting 11 as against just five Indian players. Constantine has questioned this rule and has gone on to say that the tournament might have a huge fan following, but it has not been able to make an overall impact on Indian Football.
"In ISL, you have five Indian players playing against or with six foreign players — some of whom are very good, while some are average and the rest of whom shouldn't have been there," the straightforward British gaffer told Indian daily The Asian Age.
"While the ISL created a huge following, it's not at the best level. I would expect Indian players to be at the forefront in the ISL.
"Obviously, everyone looks at the foreigners, [but] I am only looking at the Indian players. I will be watching this ISL closely (I wasn't here when the last edition was held) and if I see a player who impresses me, he will of course get the opportunity," Constantine said.
The former Rwanda tactician is also disgruntled by the I-League, India's premier club football competition on allowing four foreigners to take field at the same time. He said the overall reliance of the clubs on foreign players and building the team around the overseas players is detrimental to the development of Indian players.
On being questioned about why India has failed to produce players of Sunil Chhetri's calibre in recent times, Constantine said: "This could be done if the number of foreign players is reduced in the I-League.
"Currently, most teams would bring in two strikers or two central defenders with the occasional attacking midfielder. That's the spine of the team. If one reduces the numbers of foreign recruits, there are more prospects for Indian players."
So what is the way ahead for Indian football, according to the 52-year-old?
"I want the ultra professional presentation of ISL combined with sustainable and eight-month I-League calendar," added Constantine.
"If you quickly look across the ocean from what's going on in USA and their style of development, you'll understand better. If they can attract the likes of Kaka, Pirlo (Andrea), Gerrard (Steven), Lampard (Frank), Villa (David) and others, why can't we?"
Constantine, from the very start, has been in favour of the Indian club football system being modelled on the lines of the Major League Soccer (MLS), where the 20 teams, 17 from the United States and three from Canada, are divided into two conferences.