Former Indian football captain from city Victor Amalraj feels that with India hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup from next week, it will be a game changer for the game in the country. He says that India should build from here on to become a better footballing nation. According to him, the tournament will provide a great learning experience for the Indian players as well as coaching staff. With the world class infrastructure built for the tournament, Amalraj feels that the game is moving in the right direction. He shares much more in an interview with Shiva Krishna Gundra.
On India hosting FIFA U-17 WC
This is a historic moment for Indian football. There will be a lot of changes in the country. First of all, the infrastructure created for the event will be useful and there will be more professionalism into the game. You can see all the world class teams from across the globe from close. Our players can learn a lot by watching how they prepare for big tournaments. They can learn the skills and techniques. It is not only our players but also the coaching staff will be richer in experience.
On India’s chances
We need not worry about the results. You can’t expect big results. We have reasons. We have only exposure but not the competitive exposure. During our times, a lot of top teams used to come here and play. We used to play against top clubs. We lack that now. Only the south Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal are playing here. You should have competitive exposure. Never mind about the results, India hosting itself is a big boost.
On the event’s impact on players
This is a perfect platform for the young players. They can learn a lot and this will motivate them to play with more passion for the country. The tournament is a ladder for many youngsters. The tournament will also provide a great opportunity for the players to showcase their skills and become superstars. Players from here will go on to play in higher categories and senior level. It is a stepping stone for them. Many reputed players like Neymar, Anthony Martial, Dembele, Ronaldinho, Mario Gotze all played the U-17 tournament.
On Government support
This tournament will put India on the global map. The game will be improved a lot. The Indian football will be taken to next level. Due credit should be given to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and government for bringing such a big tournament to the country. The government has already bid for the under-20 World Cup as well. This is a good sign. The government support is must for any sport. It is not like BCCI that can run the show alone. Their support should continue. We should build from here on. There should be more international tournaments in the country.
Impact on Indian sporting culture
It is also a great opportunity for the spectators to witness the action live. More than 200 countries play football. There is a good following for English Premier League, La Liga and Italian leagues as well. So the following will improve. From here on, the federation has to bring under-17, under-19 and U-20 tournaments. There is a lot of scope for improvement.
On team’s combination
Most of the players are from North East region. It has a good combination. The present North Eastern States remind me of Hyderabad in 1950s and 60s where most of the Indian team players were from here. The football culture is deep in those States.
On difference from his playing days
In our time, it was more of a skill game. The fitness levels now are very high. The strategy and skill are the same but the game has become more fast now.