Indian football needs the kind of love cricket receives, says Quinton Fortune

"The talent is there. They just need the chance,” former Manchester United player Quinton Fortune said while talking football in India.

Former Manchester United player Quinton Fortune interacting with kids during the Manchester United Soccer School session in Gurugram.   -  Special Arrangement

Former Manchester United player Quinton Fortune was in Gurugram on Saturday as a part of the Manchester United Soccer School (MUSS) programme and interacted with young footballers from the Shiv Nadar School. One of them stumped him by recalling his TED talk where the South African footballer recounted his journey from a troubled state to United.

“I left my family (in Cape Town), country, food (rotis and biryani masala), at 14. It was tough. Football to me was the most beautiful game. Playing for MU was the ultimate,” he said during his visit on Saturday.

A total of 64 students (boys and girls) in the age group of 10 to 14 years participated in the MUSS training session in two batches. The day-long session, which focused on a variety of technical skills, was conducted by Neil Scott and Damian Sweeney – coaches from the MUSS programme.

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“India is investing a lot in football,” observed Fortune, who played two World Cups for South Africa and 76 matches for United from 1999 to 2006. “You see lot of foreign players coming to play here. It will raise the level. You got foreign coaches coming. But, like in any walk of life, you got to have a structure. From the academy to the senior team.”

Fortune referred to cricket to emphasise his point. “You are amazing in cricket. If that love for cricket transfers to football, that would be a scary sight. India is (the) Brazil of cricket. You need to put that in your football and create a good league here. The talent is there. They just need the chance.”

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Quinton Fortune (centre) with students at the Shiv Nadar School in Gurugram.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Football had evolved in the last two decades, according to Fortune. “The football pitches are immaculate. The players are quicker and stronger. There is nutrition, psychologists, sports science. The players can't make any excuses now. The money is, my goodness, I wish I was playing now. You can play one season and say 'thank you very much.' I am very happy for the players.”

On his visit to India, Fortune stressed, “I love doing this. I can see myself in those kids. As a student my focus was always on football. It was my education. I could fare better on the football pitch. It kept me in a good place. There was so much negativity around. Football taught me discipline.”

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Fortune sees an African nation becoming world champion in the near future. “The potential is there, in Africa. It requires good organisation, preparations. Things have to be done properly. In terms of an African team winning, it is going to be soon. Tactically, they got to be better. The ability to challenge is definitely there.”

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