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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Marco van Basten hails quality of football at FIFA U-17 World Cup

Dutch football great Marco van Basten has been impressed by the quality of football at the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup in India

fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 Updated: Oct 27, 2017 10:54 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Marco van Basten speaks on Thursday before checking in at the Kolkata hotel where the FIFA council meeting was held.
Marco van Basten speaks on Thursday before checking in at the Kolkata hotel where the FIFA council meeting was held.(Dhiman Sarkar/HT)

The hair, receding and white, was the giveaway, but every other part of Marco van Basten looked like it did in 1988 when he scored that wonder goal that fetched Holland their only international football title. Now, FIFA’s chief officer for technical development, Van Basten said such has been the level of football in this FIFA U-17 World Cup that he would have struggled.

“The level is very high. I was at the Spain and Mali game and also saw the England-Brazil semi-final which was an interesting match. Technically and physically, these boys are so professional, so positive that this has become a very interesting tournament. At 16, that is a great thing. At that age, I wasn’t so professional. I was thin and couldn’t play at the level these boys have,” said the man also known to the football world as the ‘Flying Dutchman’.

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Van Basten, 52, said Holland would have to wait for a new generation of players to come up. Referring to their failure to make the men’s World Cup in Russia next year, Van Basten said: “It is a bit of a problem because now we don’t have a good generation of players. We will need time. When I was growing up, we didn’t qualify for the 1982 and 1986 World Cup and the 1984 Euros. And then suddenly we won in 1988. It goes up and down. We are a small country.”

Voted FIFA Player of the Year in 1992 and a three-time Ballon d’Or winner, Van Basten said the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is like “Federer and Nadal”. “As far as awards go, these two players have dominated. They have made football richer with their presence. I hope new players take inspiration from them and come up,” said Van Basten.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Kolkata down by Brazil loss, but up for ‘clash of Europe’

In his capacity as FIFA’s top technical officer, Van Basten has listed a number of suggestions for improving the game. They include scrapping the offside rule, getting players to play less for their clubs, altering the penalty kicks by including a 25-yard run with the option of dribbling the goalkeeper and introducing sin bins where a player will be sent to for 10 minutes instead of him being shown the red card, among others.

Without getting into specifics, he said: “We always have to watch to improve. We have to ensure that the product called football is always getting better. In this tournament, we have introduced a new rule where a goalkick can be a free kick and I think it has had a positive response.”

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal in Guwahati was impossible after the rain: Javier Ceppi

Former referee Udayan Halder said it was part of the three new rules introduced as experiment in this World Cup. The amended rule means now the ball doesn’t have to leave the penalty area for it to be considered in play, said Halder. The other two were: showing a card to an official on the bench and letting players leave from any part of the field when he is substituted, previously it would only be from the centre-circle, he said.

Van Basten also said this tournament could be an important step in the development of football in India and that the turnouts have shown that the game has a massive audience in this country.