Bad marketing, poor channelling of young talent and selfish administrators continue to plague India's football dream, even as national and international events have created a healthy infrastructure footprint in the country, according to Jamshid Nassiri, an Iranian international footballer who has made India his home.
Nassiri is in Goa as a head scout of the IFB Boca Football Champs programme that aims to handpick 14 young and talented Indian players who will then be trained at Buenos Aires' based Boca Juniors, a football club which has churned out generation after generation of soccer wizards right from Diego Maradona to Gabriel Batistuta to Juan Riquelme and now Carlos Tevez.
"Bad marketing, no proper channelling of development of football from different age groups are some of the problems. Even administrative groups have selfish interests and when they are approached for an initiative, they are very non-cooperative. Federations have to be more interested to help football grow in India," Nassiri told IANS in an interview on the sidelines a visit here.
A string of national and international games, he said, had created excellent infrastructure, but the management of these resources was poor.
"National Games, Commonwealth Games, Lusofonia Games and others have created excellent infrastructure. The infrastructure is available but once the event has happened, the stadia are often kept locked," he lamented.
In the 1970s, Nassiri landed in India as a student from Iran before he was snapped up along with another colleague by Kolkata's premier East Bengal club. At the time, India had "wonderful raw talent" without infrastructure, he said, adding that it was a time before cricket took over India's sporting mind-space and relegated football to a second or third choice sport.
Talent, Nassiri said, has never been in short supply in India.
"There's plenty of talent in young Indians which needs to be groomed. Everybody cannot only ask the government to do things. At some stage it is the responsibility of the corporates also to help in different ways, for example, helping people grow at the grassroots level and at the school and college level. That's why I am pleased that IFB has come forward to create this excellent programme to encourage football talent in the country," he said.
Elaborating on his assignment, Nassiri said: "This IFB Boca Football Champs programme stretches to the age 25. The USP is that it's the first of its kind because it's the first college tournament in India. Also, it's the first school and college tournament."
Asked when India would emerge as a global player in football, Nassiri spoke of a vision which could yield results after a decade, only if the investments were made right now.
"You give me 10-12 years' time, infrastructure and exposure to different international-level training. I can show you that if Indian footallers are trained when they are 10 years old, then, by the time they are 20, they will be as good as international players," Nassiri asserted.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)