The Asian Football Confederation is spreading its foreigners rule of 3+1 from the AFC Champions League to the AFC Cup. Under this ruling clubs can play four foreigners in total in continental competitions with one of them having to be Asian. This way the AFC hopes that clubs across the continent will take on more Asian players, give them a chance to shine and allow better quality foreigners to come in.
But the question is if the 3+1 rule helping Asian football?
The AFC surely thinks it is a success so far. AFC Director of Competitions Tokuaki Suzuki said, "After the great success in implementing this system in ACL, it is the right time to introduce this in the AFC Cup matches. The introduction of 3+1 system in ACL gave many Asian players the chance to show their abilities at the continental level, and also gave the clubs the chance to strengthen their squad in the ACL matches."
"Introducing this system encouraged Asian clubs to sign Asian players, which proved to be a successful decision, as we witnessed the success achieved by the players who were signed for the Asian berth."
But the AFC wants this rule not only to be implemented by itself, but also by their member federations as well. The AIFF changed their rules accordingly last season which then became a 3+1+1 rule, meaning three foreigners from anywhere in the world, an Asian player plus a player of Indian origin. So clubs in last years I-League could have played with up to five foreign nationals.
This year the rule has been modified. There is no longer a PIO slot in squads, which means that India now follows the 3+1 rule with one difference, only three out of those four foreigners can play at any given time in the I-League, so some clubs have decided to only sign three foreigners and often the Asian slot is left free.
And the question is also if top class Asians would come to developing leagues like India. Surely not, but still quality players like Japanese Ryuji Sueoka and Australian Tolgay Ozbey have come in, but also some not so good Asians who have since left Indian shores again.
India coach Bob Houghton has been telling the AIFF to reduce the number of foreigners to two, so that young Indian talent gets playing time in the I-League; but the AFC thinks otherwise and more from a continental body perspective as in Asian then local, country football. To judge the rule now would be unfair, so lets wait another two/three years and then a judgement can be made if this rule has helped or harmed Asian football.