Over the years, foreign players have increasingly played an important role in the National Football League. They have become a key element around which plans are made, but there is now concern that the NFL is becoming more and more dependent on overseas factor.
All the contenders for the NFL crown this time around seem to rally around their three foreign recruits, with the Indian players in the teams reduced to playing supporting cast. So, when last year’s runners-up Kingfisher East Bengal touched down in Mumbai on Friday with just one foreigner — that too the untried Bonface Ambani of Kenya — the media interaction turned into a discussion on how the team will cope with the “problem”.
Manager Manish Banerjee and Brazilian coach Carlos Roberto Pereira admitted they were in a spot but played down the issue by saying it would not affect their campaign. “Yes we have a problem,” said the 60-year-old Carlos after the team’s hour-long training session at the Goan Sports ground. “But I have faith in the side. We can start on a winning note.”
The three-time champions have tried quite a few foreigners this season but have failed to find a quality striker. They exited early from the Durand Cup, the IFA Shield and the Federation Cup. Their Brazilian defender, Cristiano Hilario, is injured and Ambani was signed only on Wednesday, with only five training sessions with the team so far.
Carlos said the team would have to cope with the lack of foreigners only in the first phase. “We have finalised terms with Brazilian striker Admilson Martez. He is likely to be in India by next Sunday. But he won’t be playing in the first phase.”