Ferdinand: Indian football needs a player like Tendulkar

Rio Ferdinand, one of the greatest ever footballers from England, feels that Indian football needs its Sachin Tendulkar to inspire a generation. The former Manchester United centre-back, who played for England in 81 matches, said India also needed to invest a lot to raise its standard in the sport.

On the impact of the Indian Super League, Ferdinand said the league was yet to make the best use of its top foreign recruits.   -  REUTERS

Rio Ferdinand, one of the greatest ever footballers from England, feels that Indian football needs its Sachin Tendulkar to inspire a generation.

As part of their global commitment to support football amongst the youth, British broadcast giant BT Sport organised a football workshop for young footballers in Delhi. Ferdinand, along with colleague and former footballer Robbie Savage, arrived in the capital with 'The Supporters Club', BT’s charitable initiative, and engaged in training sessions and interactive events with the youngsters.

The former Manchester United centre-back who played for England in 81 matches, said India also needed to invest a lot to raise its standard in the sport. “The only way to go up is investment in the infrastructure, in the grass roots. The culture needs to be changed and it will change if one person from India can go on to become a professional footballer and can be an inspiration for the next generation,” said Ferdinand, following a session with underprivileged children here on Tuesday.

Culture change

As Ferdinand stressed, “There will be change in culture in the older generation who can say it can be a job. At the moment there is no example for the older generation to look and say that there is a football version of Tendulkar.”

The 37-year-old former Manchester United player said even Asia, which was yet to catch up with Europe and South America, faced similar problems as there were not many stars who could inspire the younger lot.

On the impact of the Indian Super League (ISL), Ferdinand said the league was yet to make the best use of its top foreign recruits. “It is good to bring the guys over here but if you just give someone money to come and play here it does not solve the problem. If I focus on someone to come and help me do something, I want him to leave a lasting legacy.

“If he just comes, picks the money, plays a couple of games and goes home, then it is not adding to the league of your country, your culture, your ideology of football. I think there should be stipulations when these contracts are given out to these players. They have to give back. One has to see that there is an imprint left.”

Lagging behind on infrastructure

Ferdinand said he had learnt from his friends who had played in the ISL that India was lacking in terms of infrastructure and facilities. “They have enjoyed the culture, a new way of life. The infrastructure and facilities are very very weak which is understandable. It is new.”

About corruption in FIFA, Ferdinand hoped that the world body would be able to deal with it properly. “Corruption is everywhere in the world. It (FIFA) is a powerful organisation and it has got its responsibility. It is a great sport connecting people. It is disappointing what is happening there. Hopefully, the powers that be can clean it up,” he said.

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