New Delhi : AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey and General Secretary Shaji Prabhakaranand had a meeting with FIFA Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger, in Australia last month to finalise the setting-up of a central academy in India , a mark of association, bonding between FIFA and AIFF.
Wenger, expected to visit India in October, opened up on the inspiration for working with the AIFF on such a talent development project. “I would say that football is the most popular sport in the world and it looks logical that one of the biggest countries in the world has access to football development. I’d say that India is a sporting country, and I’m hopeful that we can bring great joy to children in India and have fun by playing football.
“I’m confident because I believe that success is linked to education. We want to give the opportunity to educate young people to watch football in India,” he said.
He also described the 2-step process of developing academies in India. “Overall, it’s based on two things. First, it’s identifying talent. And then the quality of the educational programme and the coaching is absolutely vital. The AIFF has to take charge of the education with us and we need good cooperation.We will need to work together with the AIFF to identify the talent first. And after that we have to group the best with the best. Under that, you have the grassroots game for the whole country. The starting point is to identify the talent and put the best with the best together.”
He also discussed the possibilities to identify talents among the large Indian population and said, “”The number is an advantage, but the organisation’s task gets tougher. 1.4 billion people, I’d say it’s a gold mine, but a gold mine, which, at the moment, we have not analysed or identified well.That’s why we need people inside the country who know where the talent is. This is why the cooperation between FIFA and the AIFF will be absolutely vital, with a strong desire. As per our conversation, the AIFF is highly focused and motivated to help us do that. I think we will do a great job together,” said Wenger.
“I met the President and the Secretary General in Australia at the Women’s World Cup, and I must say I was impressed by their motivation and their capacity to organise what we want to do. I came out of the meeting very optimistic about our cooperation. We will start the work really soon,” added Wenger.
India is a hub of Cricket and he feels that the room for other sports should also be there. I don’t see why India would not be on the world map with the number of players. It’s a sporting country. At the moment, cricket is their number one sport. I have nothing against cricket. I was in England for a long time and I know how important cricket is to England. But there is room for other sports. Not all the kids can only play cricket. We want to give them that opportunity. Football is a fantastic sport where there is no discrimination based on weight or size. If you have good technique, you play,” said the Frenchman.
For a country like India, which is known for producing great talents, he feels that it wouldn’t be difficult to develop amazing talents in Football. “I would say that the Indian people are dedicated, intelligent and ready to invest in education. It all comes down to education. There were many Indians doing very well when I was in England because they were very dedicated and invested a lot of time in education. The difference in football is that you must also educate your feet. In fact, football is doing with your feet what your brain wants. So of course, we have the brain but we want to educate the feet as well. And then we’ll have great players,” concluded Wenger.