India is no more an unknown destination to the legends and superstars of world football. A clutch of stars, including legends such as Pele and Diego Maradona, have paid a visit in recent years. Everyone spoke about the nice culture and the warmth of reception but none had any knowledge about Indian football and the maladies surrounding it and escaped with generalised statements.

Zico, one of the finest exponents of creative football, stands as a remarkable exception and the Brazilian, armed with first-hand knowledge of Indian football, is never shy of making his point. Working closely with Indian players and the country’s football setup over the last two Indian Super League seasons, the FC Goa marquee manager has an authoritative insight on the way the sport is practiced in the country.

“I can say players like Sunil Chhetri (Mumbai City FC), Haokip (FC Goa), Eugeneson Lyngdoh (FC Pune City), Siam Hangal (NorthEast United FC), Boithang Haokip (NorthEast) have impressed me with their performance in the ISL,” Zico said during a Press Conference, without any promptings from his support staff. One can hope that these words from the legend will provide the encouragement to the players to aspire for higher excellence.

When questioned about the Indian national team, Zico said that he has not been able to see the matches of the National team as he found nothing on television. But the Brazilian, who gave the Japan national team a new identity in world football as its coach, had one word of advice for the Indians — stay together for a longer period. “Maybe the Indian team is not getting success because they do not have enough time to play together. Most of the players I find here are hopping across clubs every season,” Zico said. “I never heard during my stay here that the Indian team is playing in South America or in Europe. They need the right exposure in football.”

He added: “Look at the Japan national team. I always tried to keep the players together for a longer time. And that helped them play better as a team. You need to allow a longer learning period to the players.”