The focus is well and truly back on Indian Football as the Indian Super League drafts caught the attention of the football fans across the nation. How the first edition of the Indian Super League pans out is anybody’s guess at the moment but the World Cup did have certain lessons for Indian Football. Indians spent sleepless nights and occasionally went to bed at 4:30 am, when the games were decided through penalties. The TRPs of the channels telecasting the event soared and sales of TV sets broke all records. THT’ s guest author Srijan Bhattacharya spoke to Siddhartha Bhattacharya, Jose Ramires Barreto and Lalkamal Bhowmik about what lessons can India learn from FIFA World Cup and this is what the trio had to say
Jose Ramires Barreto, the former Mohun Bagan captain and the current assistant coach of Athletico de Kolkata, believed Youth development and better infrastructure are the two important lessons. He was of the opinion that the stadiums need to be better and that more practice grounds with better facilities are needed. More residential youth academies are required to groom the youngsters. Barreto also stressed on the better marketing of the I-League and the need for all the matches to be telecasted live on the television. He also called for the increase in the number of I-League teams to make it more interesting. An interesting point that the Brazilian mentioned was about the audience. With Kolkata fans notoriously famous for taking out there anger on the fans, Barreto mentioned that the Indian fans should learn from the World Cup and behave in a better way in the stadiums.
Mr Siddhartha Bhattacharya, , director, United Sports Club spoke on the same lines as Barreto. On the issue of youth development, Mr Bhattacharya mentioned that it would be hard for India to follow the model of youth development of European nations like Germany or Netherlands, right now, as they are way ahead. He believed that India should look at the youth development model of Ghana and Costa Rica and the Sports/football should be made a compulsory subject in school education. Mr Bhattacharya also called for increasing the teams in the I-League. He said that all the 32 teams which participated in the world cup have at least 14 teams participating in their league. He also pitched up in for the I-League to be made a separate entity and s separate management.
The United Sports club director also touched upon the issues of better marketing and live telecast of games. He went on to add that the poor telecast is also a major cause of poor public interest in Indian football. The main point highlighted by United Sports club director was the poor organization of the I-League matches. During summer teams in the I-league are forced to play matches under the blazing sun at 2:00 pm or 3:00 pm at temperatures of more than 40 degree Celsius. This is neither conducive to the players nor to the spectators.
Lalkamal Bhowmick, Indian international, currently playing for Mc Dowell’s Mohun Bagan Athletic Club also pointed out better infrastructure and youth development as the top two lessons. Bhowmick mentioned that some of the grounds where teams train and play is not up to the mark. The artificial turfs used in some of our stadiums are particularly poor in terms of quality and they often lead to injuries. The central midfielder opined that India has an abundance of talent but these talents need to be nurtured properly from the grass root level. Like Barreto before Bhowmick pitched for the increase in number of teams participating in the I-League.
The influential midfielder believed in the need to built public interest and mentioned that the Indian Super League would help build up public interest due to the presence of celebrities like Salman Khan, John Abraham, Sachin Tendulkar, Ranbir Kapur, Sourav Ganguly and Mukesh Ambani. He however was quick to add that the ISL should not hamper I-League in anyway. Citing Joachim Loew and Germany’s example the player stressed on the need for long term planning in Indian Football.
Youth development, improvement in infrastructure, better match organization and technological advancements emerged as the top lessons that the Indian Football can learn form the World Cup. The views come from a current player, a current coach and a club director and hence are very significant. Indian Football needs to improve on all these fronts if India has to become a top footballing nation.
Written by Guest Author Srijan Bhattacharya