LEGENDARY coach Arsene Wenger says ‘it’s possible’ to develop Indian football in a very short time and he cannot imagine the sport evolving globally without the involvement of the Asian country.
The encouraging words from the former Arsenal manager came ahead of the Indian team’s World Cup qualifier against Qatar on Tuesday (21).
Wenger, who is currently the chief of global football development, FIFA, visited the All India Football Federation (AIFF) headquarters on Monday (20) and had an interaction with the heads of a select group of academies from across the country.
“I would say I was always fascinated by India. My target is to improve football in the world. And it is impossible that a country like India, 1.4 billion, is not on the football world map,” Wenger said.
“I believe you have huge assets, fantastic qualities that make me very optimistic about what you can do here,” he said.
“It is absolutely fantastic to have that opportunity. And with my team, we are really highly motivated to help this country develop in the game. I’m convinced that it’s possible in the very short term.”
Wenger emphasised on how a well-oriented talent development scheme can change the face of the game in a country. “I was in Japan at the start of their football in 1995. In 1998, they were at the World Cup. So that means it is possible. You have to start early.
“What will football be like in 2030? How can we imagine what our needed quality is in 2030? But what is for sure, is where we start with technique. Football is a technical sport. We have to equip the players from five to 15 with the best possible capacity to be technically at the top.
“That means, basically, to make it simple, is to make the ball his friend. The rest can be developed later. And this is absolutely vital.
“So, this is where we have to start and that’s where we want to help people to make young players technically perfect. The start of our programme is to identify the talent and then put the best talents together,” he said.
AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey revealed that his team had been working with Wenger, who won numerous trophies with Arsenal, for a long time.
“We are honoured and privileged to host and welcome Mr. Wenger. His experience in football needs no introduction or explanation. I can just hope and pray that he continues to be involved with India’s Talent Development Scheme project,” he said.
“We have been discussing this project for nearly three months now. Wenger’s visit to India and his experience and support from FIFA, I am sure will make this a huge success.”
Commenting on India’s football development, Chaubey said, “Let’s not only develop football in India. Rather, make a space on the map of world football, where everyone of us present in this house today can say, yes, on that particular day, November 20, 2023, at the Football House, India, we were there.”