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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Great chance for Indian youngsters to learn, say coaches

FIFA U-17 World Cup, which kicks off on Friday, features the world’s finest millennial talent, and aspiring Indian football players can learn a lot, say former coaches.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 05, 2017 17:53 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,India national under-17 football team
The Indian football team will face USA in their opening game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on October 6. (AIFF )

As the 24-hour countdown to the FIFA U-17 World Cup began on Thursday, former footballers in Mumbai urged aspiring players and budding coaches to learn the nuances of the game from the international teams that would play their group games in Mumbai.

India, as hosts, have earned direct qualification to the 16-team tournament and will play their first game against US in New Delhi on Friday.

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Meeting of the world’s best football teens)

Godfrey Pereira, former forward who was coach of Air India, felt India may not have got the opportunity to play in the FIFA U-17 World Cup if the side had to go through the grind of the qualifying stages. “That the World Cup is being played here is indeed a great opportunity for the country given it will boost the football infrastructure it has now. But what’s important is how we follow things up after the event comes to an end.”

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: India carry a billion plus people’s expectations)

Lessons for youngsters

Since teams in the FIFA U-17 World Cup mostly comprises players aged around 15-16, Pereira said it would be ideal for India’s 12-13-year-olds who aspire to don the national jersey in the years to come. “They should go and learn how the international players run off the ball, coordinate one-touch passes and the style big teams like Brazil, Spain and so on follow.”

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Kargil War heroes inspire Indian football team)

Pereira though was sceptical about how the tournament can benefit the coaches. He said though Indian coaches familiar with the standards of world football, they had little opportunity to showcase them or nurture their potential.

“Which Indian coaches are getting to manage an ISL team? What I would suggest is, if you want, appoint a professional foreign coach but have Indian coaches as their assistant. The way things stand, the professional coaches get their own physiotherapists, trainers, support staff, etc. The Indian coaches don’t get a chance to learn anything.”

(Read | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Ignore European champions Spain at your own peril)

Yusuf Ansari, also a former Air India coach, expected the FIFA U-17 World Cup to raise the popularity of Indian football among fans. “We used to play football even in Eden Gardens and the crowd would throng the stadium. The popularity took a dip after English and Spanish league matches started to be telecast,” he said.

“This tournament, however, is an excellent opportunity for youngsters to watch quality players from close quarters. They should watch and observe the discipline, team unity and other technicalities to improve themselves.”

First Published: Oct 05, 2017 17:53 IST