VIJAYAWADA: Ever since Indian Super League officials announced that the league would be five months long, everyone had one question on their minds. What sort of foreign players would they be able to attract?
Forget the usual ‘retirement home’ jibes that ISL has to suffer and the fact that India may not be an attractive destination for international stars to spend a whole season in.
The ISL was, for a number of foreign players, a good short term stay before jetting off to MLS or the Brazilian league. This year’s expanded schedule — the league is scheduled to start in November and last for five months till March— means that they will miss the January transfer window thereby ensuring that they will have to wait until June to play elsewhere.
Pune City FC’s capture of Emiliano Alfaro though shows that it’s not all doom and gloom. The former Lazio player is the type of player that ISL clubs were supposed to miss out on, post the expansion — he was one of the best strikers in the league last year, is not 30 yet and utilised the January window to play in UAE post the league last year. But here he is, committing to play out the entire season in India.
“It’s going to be different for sure,” Alfaro told Express after being unveiled as Pune City player “But it is not going to prevent people from coming. Of course, you will miss out on the January window. Both the club and player will have to do things a bit differently, the clubs in a financial sense and the player will have to be away from his family for a bit more. I am planning to have my family visit occasionally this year, though they will not be staying the whole season.
“But India was brilliant for me last year,” he said. “I had a great season with NorthEast United and I was looking forward to following up on that. When the coach (Antonio Lopez Habas) called me and told me he wanted me, I was thinking about coming here. And then I had a chat with the club president as well. So that clinched it for me. Now I hope I can fire Pune City to the title this year.”
Alfaro also thinks that expansion is the right way forward for Indian football in general. “It gives us a lot more time to prepare, a lot more time to recover from matches,” he said.
“Last year, the case was that if a player got injured, he was likely to miss 6-7 matches. But this year, it is going to be more normal. This is definitely the right way forward.”