‘India lacks a soccer development programme’

By Abhishek Roy, IANS

New Delhi : India are out of contention for the 2010 FIFA World Cup already, and the blame is being squarely laid at the door of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the country lacking in a long-term soccer development programme.

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India’s hopes were dashed as the national team lost 3-6 on aggregate to Lebanon in the first round of the Asian zone qualifier.

Experts feel it is about time the AIFF woke up from its slumber and started planning for the future with a sound development programme so that India can make a realistic attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

“How can we dream about qualifying for the World Cup if we don’t have a sound development programme,” Subrata Bhattacharya, former India international and current East Bengal coach, told IANS.

“Tell me how many good academies do we have in the country? Barring the Tata Football Academy (TFA), we don’t have any good academy in such a huge country,” he regretted.

TFA, a brainchild of late industrialist J.R.D. Tata, was established in 1983 and, over the years, has churned out exciting talents, like Carlton Chapman, Dipendu Biswas, Mahesh Gawli and Deepak Mondal, who all represented the country with distinction.

“Academies are the cradle of talent in any country. If we don’t have good academies, there can never be any youth development,” lamented the East Bengal coach.

Bhattacharya, a former Mohun Bagan player and coach, also had a dig at AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, saying: “The problem with Indian football is that our revered Priya-da doesn’t know anyone apart from Chuni (Goswami) and P.K. (Banerjee). We need to have the right person in the right place at the right time.”

Former India coach Sukhwinder Singh, back with JCT Mills, Phagwara, also felt that the AIFF doesn’t have a proper talent search programme in place.

“We have to search for talent all over the country. I will give you a very simple example. In the current under-19 camp in Goa, we have 19 players from TFA. I am not ready to buy that we don’t have enough talent and that 19 players have to come from TFA alone,” quipped Singh.

“It seems that we do not have enough resources to unearth talent around the country. If we want to progress, it is about time we started using our resources to identify talent and then launch a youth development programme in a planned manner,” he added.

Mahindra United coach Derek Pereira, one of the most successful coaches in recent times, said the AIFF itself must become professional before demanding professionalism from the clubs.

“All these World Cup promises are nothing but gimmicks. It is high time the AIFF became professional. It organizes different courses for coaches but doesn’t bother to upgrade these courses.

“Coaching the coaches is a basic thing and successful football countries have a system in place,” said Pereira.

“Tell me in a country of a billion plus how many professional coaches do we have? In Germany, a country less than the size of Maharashtra, there are 6,000 coaches with professional licenses,” he added.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, during his recent visit to India, termed the country as a sleeping giant in football. But how long will it take the giant to awaken is a question only the AIFF can answer.