'India need a good structure'

Football

The Iranian, who made a name for himself in Kolkata by playing for East Bengal and Mohameddan Sporting in the late 1970s and 80s, now calls the City of Joy home, and after over thirty years in India, he is a Kolkatan for all practical purposes, something made amply clear by his driving passion for the game of football.

Ask him about the current situation of Indian football, he smiles and says in a barely recognisable Iranian accent. “It used to be so much better. The good old days of when India used to be an actual powerhouse in Asian football is long gone. And the sorry part is, it has nothing to do with the lack of talent. The talent is there. But where is the structure that is so vital to the sustenance of any game?

“I remember we used to have such great footballers like Chuni Goswami and Ahmed Khan. Man-for-man, they were unbelievable players. Bangalore and Karnataka has produced so many great footballers over the years. Where is that, what seemed then a never ending, production line,” queried the only foreigner to guide Maharashtra to the Santosh Trophy.

Nassiri, who is now the head scout for the Tata Tea and Arsenal Jaago Re football tournament, said concentrating on grassroots is the only way to ensure India becomes a good footballing country.

“We need kids to play football. It is as simple as that. Get a good structure in. Bring in academies and get them in from a young age. Then, maybe in 10-15 years, you will be able to compete. But that onus is completely on the AIFF (All India Football Federation).”

Nassiri, who first came to India to study in the Aligarh Muslim University along with former East Bengal team-mate Majid Baskar, admitted that there has been some improvement shown off late, but it was just the beginning and a lot more needed to be done.

“There has been some progress. It is because there are several academies set up in the North East that so many footballers are cropping up from that part of the country. But a lot more needs to be done. Academies need to be set up across the country, in every State if possible. I mean I see some of these kids playing football and they are brilliant.

Technically gifted. They do things that cannot be taught. The two Bangalore kids (who were part of the winning team in the Arsenal International Soccer Festival) have an abundance of talent.

“But what one must not forget is that, it doesn’t end there. You do not win football games on talent alone. They need to be taught the nuances of the game. They need to be taught the importance of fitness and physical ability along with mental strength. Only then can you compete at the world stage,” the former Iranian international said.

Nassiri, whose ten-year old son is also a budding footballer, observed that Indians had a disadvantage in size, but it could be made up by inculcating right methods of training.

“Kids can always get bigger and stronger. It’s hard for a grown-up man to get physically stronger. But if you impart the right training methods to the kids from a young age, they will be able to compete in the physical aspects as well.

“Football is a physical sport, a contact sport. Therefore it is important that you are strong enough to cope with the rigours of the game. One might think that Messi is a little fellow. He is, but he is also physically strong, which is why it is so difficult to bring him down or knock him off the ball.

“Getting the right blend of physicality and technical ability is the key to doing well and being successful in this game. It’s a fine line, but one that needs to be identified,” he signed off by adding that the future of Indian football lies in the North East and more importantly in the South.


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