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Indian Football Needs Expertise of European Countries to Grow: Robert Pires

Arsenal and France legend Robert Pires, who played for Indian Super League (ISL) side FC Goa in the first edition of the tournament, believes India should look to tap into the knowledge base of European countries to further improve their stock in the sport.

News18 Sports

Updated:October 6, 2018, 1:32 PM IST
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The Indian football team’s recent showing in the AFC U-16 Championships left many fans optimistic about the future of the sport in the game.

Almost a year removed from participating in the FIFA U-17 World Cup as hosts, India almost qualified for the tournament in 2019 but suffered a hard-fought 1-0 loss to South Korea in the quarterfinals.

Yet while the improvement in the team’s fortunes should be lauded, it’s also worth noting that India still remains behind other nations in terms of the development in the sport.

This belief is shared by former Arsenal and Villareal star Robert Pires, who stated at a recent La Liga event held in Noida that India should look to Europe for football expertise.

“India needs to tap in to the experience of other countries, specifically European ones. The country needs more academies and coaches for young players,” said the former France international.

Given that he was speaking at an event to inaugurate the opening of a La Liga school, his statement can be taken with a grain of salt.

However, Pires’ own experiences in France – a country known for nurturing youth players – and later Arsenal under Arsene Wenger means his words do carry some weight, especially in a country where exposure tours are seen as the only way to develop young players.

‘Bring Top European Talent to ISL’



Being the La Liga ambassador isn’t the first time that Pires has been involved in a football project in India. He took part in the India Super League (ISL) in 2014 when he turned out for FC Goa.

Pires acknowledged that the league has seen improvement since the inaugural season. Indeed, what started out as a two-month league will now span six months, resembling the schedule followed by leagues around the world.

That being said, he did also suggest that teams should look to bring in more foreign players with name recognition to both boost the league’s visibility as well as help out young players.

“If you find players like (Alessandro) Del Piero or even me who want to come to India and help the next generation it is always a good idea. The motivation for the ISL is to find good players they want to see in India,” he stated in an interaction with News18.

In its initial years, the ISL did rely on heavily on bringing in marquee players. However, the fact that concept encountered mixed results has now seen more teams focus on building squads rather than spend big on short-term investments.

Indeed, big spending doesn’t always equal good results especially in countries outside of Europe. The Chinese Super League’s egregious expenditures on foreign players while ignoring development at the grassroots level is a classic example of bigger not always equaling better.

Yet the J-League (Japan) and the A-League (Australia) have shown that marquee signings and development of young talent can go hand in hand, meaning the ISL could do worse than to revisit that well again.
| Edited by: Akhil Nair
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