Desailly: ‘India playing FIFA U-17 WC at home is special’

Retired French footballer and World Cup winner says the tournament is an opportunity for India to shine and start something on a different level.

FIFA legend Marcel Desailly shows his skill in the exhibition match during the unveiling of the FIFA U-17 trophy at the D.Y. Patil stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

In his prime, French footballer Marcel Desailly tasted success in club as well as international football. The two-time Champions League winner — with Marseile and AC Milan in 1993 and 1994 respectively — was also a part of the World Cup winning team in 1998. The 48-year-old participated in an exhibition match between FIFA Legends and Indian Icons at the D.Y Patil Stadium here on Tuesday, and ended up on the winning side.

They won 5-4, which included four spectacular goals by Spanish legend Fernando Morientes. India women’s team skipper Bala Devi struck a brace for the latter.

Rising from a Nantes academy to becoming a football great, the one-time attacking midfielder, spoke how winning squads are made. To highlight the qualities required in teams striving to be champions, the Frenchman referred to the India U-17 team, which is preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup debut next month and the France side, which won the World Cup on home soil beating Brazil 3-0 in 1998. Desailly stressed, “The Indian team playing at home is really special. I feel they should prepare well physically and psychologically to handle the pressure on home soil,” he said, adding, “France won the World Cup on home soil in 1998 because we were able to hold that pressure, remain positive on the field and produce an extra edge to the performance through the games.”

France beat Italy in the quarterfinal, Croatia in the semifinal, before bursting Brazil’s bubble in the title clash. Desailly referred to the opportunity India enjoys as the host nation for the U-17 World Cup. “For India, the tournament is an opportunity to shine and start something on a different level in this continent where football is taking over,” added Desailly, who was at the stadium to promote the FIFA event, alongside Morientes, Carlos Valderrama (Colombia), Jorge Campos (Mexico) and Emmanuel Amuneke (Nigeria).

Club football in France is in a state of upheaval after Paris Saint German (PSG) lured Neymar from FC Barcelona for €222 million euros, followed by a €180 million euro contract for 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe, who left AS Monaco.

PSG’s move to build the squad by buying stars with an eye on Champion League success is nothing unusual, mentioned the French captain. “PSG is doing a model that other clubs were doing for 15 years. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Milan have been buying players. From 100 million, it (player contracts) has become 200 million. In the next 15 years, it may be 300 million. It is the business of football. You (media) and broadcast (television rights) have brought this energy and this business into the system. Barcelona received €222 million euros (Neymar move to PSG), they spent 105 million euro on (Ousmane) Dembele from Borussia Dortmund, so money is going around in the system. I hope it is for the good and it helps academies and lower level clubs to create infrastructure.”

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