Breitner tips India to become big in football in two decades

The 64-year-old former midfield player, who was part of the German sides which won the World Cup in 1974 in Munich and then finished runners-up to Italy in 1982, based his assessment on what he has seen in the new generation of players over the last eight years in the FC Bayern Youth Cup tournament.

Paul Breitner is among the handful of players who have scored in two World Cup final.   -  Reuters

Former German football great Paul Breitner has tipped India to become a major power in the globe’s most followed sport in under two decades.

The 64-year-old former midfield player, who was part of the German sides which won the World Cup in 1974 in Munich and then finished runners-up to Italy in 1982, based his assessment on what he has seen in the new generation of players over the last eight years in the FC Bayern Youth Cup tournament.

“I see great improvement in the young Indian players from 2008 (when the tournament was introduced in India) to now. What I have seen today was very good level (of football) as compared to all other countries where I am training,” said the FC Bayern Munich legend in an interview to PTI.

Breitner is in the city to witness the semifinals and final of the pan-India Under 16 tournament being held today.

Why will India become a great football nation?

“I expect that besides China, India also will become a great football nation. (But) it will need 15-20 years. You need two or three generations but I am convinced that football in India will become a very important and good one.

“If you ask me why, the answer is the Indian people have some movements which are different from others, like your hockey team — they use body feints — which is outstanding,” said Breitner who was part of the German outfit that also won Euro titles in 1972 and 1980.

‘Indians need to be trained by top coaches’

Breitner, among a handful of players to have scored a goal in two World Cup finals, said the way forward was for Indians to be trained by top European coaches or by those Indian coaches who are, in turn, tutored by overseas coaches.

“Indian players will become very good if they have the chance to be trained by good coaches. This is the most important thing which you have to think about and work upon,” he said.

You have to send your coaches to Europe to learn and you also have to spend money to bring coaches from outside to teach the coaches here. If you are prepared and willing to spend money for this reason, you will improve. I am sure you can become a very important football nation,” said Breitner.

“You have the (Indian) Super League now. You still need 15-20 years to build club teams and teach kids to become stars. You need to get your own stars. Take your time,” Breitner advised.

‘Football has changed over the years’

According to the former German star, two of the biggest changes that have taken place in football over the last decade is that it has become a big money-spinner and is played at breakneck speed.

“Football generally has changed in the last 10-12 years, from a normal to high speed football. Sometimes it’s very difficult to follow and see everything that happens on the pitch.

“I see this in the game played by the youngsters. They see television, watch (big clubs) Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid (etcetera) and realise that to become successful and great players they need to work on their technique and on their speed.

“Football has become a big part of the entertainment business. Footballers are like actors, singers, they entertain the people. You cannot compare it to our generation, like you cannot compare the shoes of 1970s and 1980s to the current ones,” he said.

‘EPL has stopped improving’

Breitner, who played for top Spanish club Real Madrid for four years after winning the World Cup, took a dig at the hugely popular English Premier League, saying it has stopped improving over the last few years and was a few rungs below his country’s Bundesliga and the Spanish League in quality.

“I tell you the No. 1 is Bundesliga and the Spanish League and then there is nothing (gap) and then comes Premier League and then comes the Italian league. Premier League made the mistake of stopping to improve constantly 5-6 years ago.

“They spent a lot of money to buy many good players and thought it is enough to become better and better. They thought ’we have the best players and we don’t need to improve.’ Look at the Champions League, where are their teams over the last 2-3 years? Nowhere,” he declared.

‘Germany is among the favourites’

Speaking about the upcoming Euro Championships this year, Breitner said that Germany was among the favoured teams to clinch the crown.

“We always are co-favourites. For me the Euro has never been that important. The Euro is one step from one World Cup to the next. After every World cup some players finish their career and after every World Cup we need to rebuild our national team by looking at new and younger players by giving them time to improve.

“The Euro helps to realise which talents would be able to play in the next World Cup. Okay, every team wants to win the Euro. (But) it’s important to realise who is able to play at the highest level,” said the former mid-fielder who scored 7 goals in 20 World Cup appearances.

On the club culture in Germany

He credited the club culture in his country for the consistently excellent show Germany has dished out in World Cups.

“The biggest thing which is responsible for this is our kids can start playing at the age of 3 or 4. We Germans are organised by clubs. We have clubs for everything — for swimming, tennis, running, climbing hills, playing chess.

“I live in a small village of 5000 people and we have more than 70 different clubs you come home from work and you with your family will join your club and play football. you can enter club at 3 or 4 and at the age of 4 or 5 we start competitions for them.

“You can play football until you die. We have so many teams of elder people at the age of 70 or 80. I always say in Germany after eating, drinking, family and shopping, football in our society comes at no. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. We have 50-60 million football fans from a country of 70 million Germans. Everybody loves football. That’s the reason we are so consistent,” he explained.

Asked to choose between the 1974 World Cup final and the heart-stopping 1982 semi final against France that his team won on penalties after extra time, Breitner said, “The semifinal was the more spectacular game, but for me the whistle of the referee to finish the World Cup final was more spectacular.”

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