Bayern Munich football legend Paul Breitner feels 162 ranked India must play regularly against top teams, not fearing embarrassing results, if it want to progress in international football.
Breitner said the world was waiting for India, the world's second most populous nation, to emerge as a footballing power.
The 60-year-old German defender, who along with Pele, Vava and Zidane has the unique achievement of scoring in two World Cup finals, said the friendly between Indian and Bayern Munich, slated for January 10, would be a learning experience for the hosts.
"There is huge potential for the game in India. The country can be a footballing giant if it wakes up to its potential," the former defender said on the sidelines of the Audi Football Summit on Friday.
A host of Bayern stars like Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Frank Ribery, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez will be seen in action at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in what will be the farewell match for former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the victims of the deadly earthquake that struck Bhutia's home state of Sikkim. The match will be Bayern Munich's third visit to India.
Unlike former India coach Bob Houghton, who felt getting beaten by huge margins would be demoralising for Indian football, Breitner, now an adviser with the Bayern Munich board, said losing is a part of learning process.
"What is the use of playing against lowly ranked team? India will only progress if they play top teams, even if they lose by huge margins," said Breitner, who was nicknamed Der Afro for his big curly hair.
Asked if losing by a huge margin to Bayern will help India, Breitner said: "So what if they lose. They will learn several things if they play such matches. In fact every time they play big teams, India will improve technically and physically as well."
"The world's focus is on India because it has a great potential to emerge as a fooballing power in the next decade. The game can become the No.1 sport in the country. Bayern Munich will extend all possible help to India for youth development," he said.
Breitner, however, warned that India should be ready for the match as there would be no lack of intensity from Bayern Munich. Last year, a veteran Bayern Munich All Star team, that also included Breitner, thrashed East Bengal 10-3.
"When a kid signs a professional contract for Bayern Munich, he has just one thing in mind - win every match. That is what we live for. All the top stars of Bayern Munich will be playing and it will be good match," he said.