Dipendu Biswas: We need soccer schools

Tags: Knowledge

Move to kick off ISL & possibility of hosting U-17 football World Cup are silver linings for us

I consider myself blessed that soccer came to my life at a very early age. Basirhat, the picturesque small hamlet in Bengal’s North 24 Parganas, had no other source of excitement other than a game of football — that was the only happening thing.

I don’t remember when I first kicked the ball or ran with it. All I remember is that as a kid I used to be kicked and excited running along the mucky grounds with my friends, the ball at my feet.

When I look back, I realise it’s not an easy job to get into any sport at a professional level if you belong to a lower middle class family. I am fortunate that my seniors helped me in steering my way through all odds. My entry into football was by default, but that eventually turned out to be my profession and greatest passion.

To me, football is a game played beyond the stipulated 90 minutes. On more occasions than one, I learnt my lessons of life from it. The philosophy of the game is very simple: you have to be on the run, attack, defend, score and give your everything, as if this is the last match and the most important game of your life.

On the flip side of the coin lies the possibility of getting vanquished by the opponent, despite best efforts and smart strategies. Also, it can all happen in seconds. The perspective that I got is that all you can do is to put your best foot forward and be prepared for all the consequences. Too much success or failure should not carry one away.

The other important takeaway is that soccer is a team game where it is important to keep and nurture one’s individual goals and aspirations to excel; individual goals and team aspirations will have to blend harmoniously.

Soccer means everything to me. After playing umpteen matches at the club, state, national and international level for more than two decades, I now crave to work for betterment of the game. With the little experience that I have of the sport, I can say that there is a magic, which creates millions of admirers - or shall I say fanatics?

What does it need to kick off the game? Nothing. All you need is a ball and some enthusiasts. There is also the glamour associated which a soccer star cherishes. It also helps in firing up wannabe players. For watchers, the game’s sheer speed along with a blend of skill, physical strength with subtle tactical battles, is what has made football a captivating game.

I can say that Indians have the skill and talent to play football. Let me reiterate that in terms of skill, we are not as far behind other soccer playing nations as is generally believed. But if the present state of affairs is nothing to write home about, it is because of poor infrastructure and lack of definite goals.

In recent times, we have produced good individual players but that has not reflected in team performances. We have to use the power of the people and their love of the game to take it to another level. We have to reach out to the grassroots, groom and nurture talent at that level. If Ecuador can be a part of the World Cup soccer, so can we.

India needs to build modern soccer academies and nurture talent. That should be the primary task. All big football powerhouses, Germany, Brazil and Spain, have professional and modern football academics where they impart the ABC of the game. Proper diet and advanced physical training are required as football is basically a physical game.

Therefore, the move to kick off Indian Soccer League (ISL) and the possibility of hosting the U-17 football World Cup are certainly silver linings for us. We have to work hard in a concerted manner with a clear agenda.

(The writer is former captain of India, under-19 and under-21 teams. He has played for East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting and is now a sports commentator).

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