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Indian football growing, says Former Liverpool and Leicester City striker Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey, who represented some of the biggest clubs in the Premier League and earned 62 caps for England says football is getting bigger and bigger in India.

football Updated: Dec 08, 2017 22:50 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, Mumbai
Emile Heskey,Indian Football,Indian Super League
Emile Heskey says he nearly joined Indian Super League Side FC Pune City.(Getty Images)

Owing to the success of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, former English star footballer Emile Heskey today said that football is getting bigger and bigger in India.

“Football is getting bigger (in India). Like cricket, football is easy to stock as you need a ball and a pitch. So, once you get going with this, because of the U-17 tournament (FIFA World Cup), it is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Then you see, younger players want to emulate the 17s, want to emulate the national (football) team, so it will grow,” Heskey said at an event here.

India successfully hosted the U-17 World Cup, with matches being played in six different cities .

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“But along with that, I am guessing the structure within the FA (AIFF) promoting the kids to give them opportunity for training methods,” he added.

The former Leicester City and Liverpool legend and entrepreneur Atif Malik today announced ‘Legends Match 2018’, an initiative to promote and develop football in India.

Heskey revealed that he became nearly a part of the Indian Super League but the plan did not materialise.

“Yes, I nearly came (to the ISL), I was coming to FC Pune City, I was offered a contract. I was out of contract in 2014, when the ISL had just launched. I don’t exactly remember, but I went to Australia or Bolton Wanderers. But it (coming to ISL) dint materialise,” the former player told reporters.

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Recently, Sol Campbell had reportedly said that India are possibly 50-100 years behind elite football nations, and Heskey agreed, attributing it to lack of infrastructure.

“If you look at our structure (in England) for instance, I can go at seven-years-old, eight-year-old and play structured football. Seven-a-side, eight-a-side and then it goes up as you age, from seven-years old. So you are getting that training.

“Now they have made it more difficult. When I was playing, anyone could be a coach. Now you need licenses. You need to go and take your badge. Some of these coaches that are taking them are as qualified as your national team coach.

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“So we have the structure there from a young age and that’s where we are reaping the benefits from it. It’s getting a happy medium first and building on that,” he explained.

Top Premier League clubs are signing foreign talent even when England’s youth teams are doing so well.

Asked about it, Heskey said, “They still do that at the top. One of my things with English football is, and I’ve got two kids in the system, at some stage you’ve got to look at it and say ‘where do they fit in that system?’.

“We’ve got the U-17s winning the World Cup, we’ve got the U-19s winning the Euros and then we got the U-20s winning the World Cup.”

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 22:50 IST