Indian football legend IM Vijayan has criticised the fielding of a growing number of foreigners in the country's football leagues, saying Indian footballers are getting completely overshadowed in the process.
"There cannot be so many foreigners playing at the expense of our footballers," the 46-year-old, who has played with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the past, told The Times of India.
Vijayan, who formed a formidable partnership with Bhaichung Bhutia in the 1990s, also revealed that the Indian Super League is promoting football in the country really well.
"The ISL has brought the eyeballs back to Indian football. I know that if you don't have players like Roberto Carlos, sponsors won't come. But then why not make the I-League only for Indian players. Why have four foreigners in one league and six in the other in the playing XI," the Arjuna awardee said.
He suggested that the I-League should take a cue from the ISL and make itself a league that focuses on Indian footballers, rather than foreigners players.
According to the current guidelines, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has announced I-League clubs to deploy a maximum of four foreigners in the starting XI, one of whom should be mandatorily of Asian origin.
In contrast, the ISL franchisees have the option of fielding six foreigners during a match and registering as many as 11 foreigners prior to the start of the season, including a marquee player and a head coach.
Vijayan, who has plied his trade with the Indian senior side in various competitions like the Nehru Cup, pre-Olympics, pre-World Cup, SAAF Cup and SAF Games, also suggested that the future looks bleak for the national team, citing Stephen Constantine's side's failure to get a win over Nepal and Guam this year.
"The national team is going nowhere too it seems with poor results against teams like Guam and Nepal," Vijayan explained.
"We used take to Nepal for a ride. It saddens me to see what it is now. I watched the Iran game on television and felt our players are not fit enough. Also as I said earlier, there needs to be motivation and a sense of security."