New entrants Bengaluru FC seek early clarity on team building from ISL

With Bengaluru FC, who were playing in the I-League, are part of the Indian Super League (ISL), they can’t sign players till it is decided how teams would be allowed to build rosters.

football Updated: Jun 13, 2017 19:47 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Bengaluru FC,Indian Super League,Bengaluru FC in ISL
Bengaluru FC’s journey to play in Asia will be more difficult (the proposal is for a knockout meet between Indian Super League and I-League top teams). They will also have to pay a steep franchise fee, which makes things more expensive.  (Getty Images)

One day after Bengaluru FC joined the Indian Super League (ISL), Mustafa Ghouse looked back warmly at the I-League and began readying for a more complex season, saying “difficult is fun.”

Given that Bengaluru FC will be playing the AFC Cup zonal semifinals, against North Korea’s 4.25SC (April 25 Sports Club) at home on August 23 and away on September 13, Ghouse, CEO of JSW Sports Private Limited which owns BFC, told HT on Tuesday that they are seeking clarity on team building for this season at the earliest.

“Playing in Asia means representing the country and the better we do, it helps India, as a member nation (of the Asian Football Confederation), get a better ranking. Also, we would want to match our standards. So, we would like to start our pre-seasons four to six weeks before our first match,” he said.

Draft in July?

Now that BFC are part of the ISL, they can’t sign players till it is decided how teams would be allowed to build rosters. Sources at the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and ISL franchises have said an Indian players’ draft would be revived and held next month. It is possible teams would be allowed to retain between two and three players. The number of imports in the squad too may come down from 11 in ISL4 but even there, BFC may have to do some juggling.

That’s because while only four, including one of Asian origin, are allowed in the AFC Cup, ISL teams so far had six on the pitch. Officials at franchises though have told HT that it could be reduced in 2017-18. “Maybe, we will get some foreigners only for ISL and some for both,” he said.

Ghouse said there were various factors in joining a league BFC had shunned in 2014. The ISL television partners’ muscle was one but what really swayed them was the prospect of playing in a longer league.

“We have had very abbreviated seasons after our first season in I-League (2013-14) which began in September and ran till end-May. From next year, we will have longer seasons and so we felt this was the right time to move.”

More difficult route to Asia

For now, the route to playing in Asia through ISL seems the proposal for a knockout meet comprising top teams from it and the I-League be ratified. It makes the journey more difficult for BFC and, given that they will have to pay a steep franchise fee, more expensive.

But that’s when Ghouse said “difficult is fun”.

“We had our backs to the wall in the Federation Cup but we came up trumps. We don’t shy away from a challenge.”

Also, that competition should keep the Kolkata giants interested.

“We will miss our rivalries; playing Bagan at home in our very first game and the atmosphere here when they won the league (2014-15). East Bengal too had our number for a while. Those are lovely memories and this meet can keep that going.”

First Published: Jun 13, 2017 19:45 IST