On a learning curve

first_imgWhen Indian football decided to turn over a new leaf with the introduction of Indian Super League in 2014, Arsenal and France legend Robert Pires found himself in the middle of a revolution.Together with another legend in Zico, the ‘Invincible’ Pires established a core of young Indian players at FC Goa in Season 1.Football has moved on since Pires’s year-long stint with the Indian club but his assessment of the sport in the country remains the same.At a time when India’s under-age teams are proving their mettle in world football the U-16 national team’s quarter-final finish in AFC Championship to name one the 44-year-old former Gunner winger said the country needs more academies to preserve the young talent.”I know a bit about the Indian under-17 team and I know they are a good side. But in my opinion, and I keep saying this, you need more work on the grassroots level. You need more academies as it is important for the young players. I think the next objective for the Indian federation should be to increase the number of academies in big cities. Besides, you need to take your time and go step by step,” Pires told Mail Today during an interview on Friday.Stressing upon the fact that the Indian under age teams are benefitting from the foreign exposure tours organised by the federation before any major tournament, Pires suggested that the players need to capitalise on this to increase their chances to play in the European clubs in future.advertisement”It is good to know that these players get the exposure tours. But if you take England, for example, they have one of the best junior teams in the world.”Now, they have academies of every football clubs which then promote players to play for the senior team. That’s how they get their opportunity to showcase their talent and make it big. Spain is the same. That’s why they win a lot of trophies,” explained Pires, who is also the ambassador of LaLiga.The ’98 World Cup winner also suggested Indian clubs could develop a similar pattern to European teams by sending young players out on loan to different countries as part of their development.”I think it would be a good idea. I believe Bengaluru (FC) has a good team. They have well under age teams also. I think if teams like theirs can promote their players to senior level to play in the ISL or send them to Japan, China and maybe in Europe, it would set a good example,” he said.During his time with FC Goa, Pires said, he learnt that Indian players had the grit to work hard. And if one read between the lines, the Frenchman also suggested the lack of marquee players or the big names in the ISL has slowed the progress of Indian players.”I think ISL is on a good roll because this is the fifth edition. The level is the same as before, but it is more important to bring foreigner players. I think the first and second edition was the best. It was good for Indian players because they could learn from the big players. When I was with Goa, it was important to help FC Goa and I think I did well because it was a new role, like a teacher, and all of them learnt a lot,” he summed up.last_img read more