The Marina Machans’ latest recruit is Tajikistan’s highest-capped international…
In many ways, the foreign player recruitment by Indian Super League (ISL) clubs has seen a shift in focus ahead of the 2020-21 season.
The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Executive Committee took a decision to follow the ‘3+1’ rule (four overseas players in the playing XI including an Asian player) from the 2021-22 season. It must be noted that ISL decided to enforce the mandatory Asian player rule from the upcoming season itself which allows for ‘4+1’ overseas players in the playing XI this time around.
As a result, the clubs have been looking for good players from the various AFC-affiliated countries. While most of them have raided Australia’s A-League, Chennaiyin FC have signed highly-experienced Tajikistan international Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev to fulfill their Asian player quota.
The 30-year-old winger is considered a behemoth when it comes to Tajik football. He is their most-capped international and is held in high regard in the Central Asian nation. And to boot, Fatkhuloev will be the first player from the country to play in the ISL.
As such, his move to Chennaiyin FC has caught the imagination of football fans in Tajikistan and Fatkhuloev reveals he has already been swamped by requests for interviews by the Tajik media.
“At the moment, being here, I have already been invited by several television channels for an interview about my new club. It is a great honour for me to be the first player from Tajikistan to be invited to play in the Indian Super League,” he told Goal .
And to boot, Fatkhuloev feels this move will be of interest not only to Tajikistan but to other Central Asian nations as well. It must be noted that no player has ever come to play in the ISL from the five Central Asian nations – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
“I am sure that upon returning home, I will be discussed for a long time by the media not only of Tajikistan but also of Central Asia.”
Fatkhuloev is a very important part of the Tajikistan national team who are slowly but steadily progressing as a competitive force on the continent. Though they are yet to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup, they are well-positioned to do so for the 2023 edition.
In the second round of the joint-qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup, Tajikistan are currently third in their group, level on points with second-placed Kyrgyzstan. They are in contention to progress to the third round and secure an automatic berth in the Asian Cup. Fatkhuloev is hoping the ISL experience will help him impress the head coach Usman Toshev and perform for the Persian Lions.
“Every coach wants more players to compete and play in the national team. The Indian Super League will definitely help me gain a lot of experience. And I can use this experience in the national team to help them win.”
There is no dearth of determination in Fatkhuloev who knows what he wants to achieve. His new club will definitely hope to utilise those qualities in the upcoming season. Moreover, if he succeeds in the ISL, Chennaiyin’s new star might well have opened up new frontiers for the ISL clubs to scout for talent.