Kanu: Perfect platform for Indian youngsters to showcase their talent

“When we played the under-17 World Cup in 1993, it was the biggest tournament for us. It makes it easier for you to make the transition to the next level, to play the Olympics, to represent the senior national side,” says Kanu.

Nwankwo Kanu (right) and Esteban Cambiasso.   -  Photo Courtesy: Twitter/AIFF

Nwankwo Kanu, who led Nigeria to its first Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, is no stranger to the FIFA under-17 World Cup. The former Arsenal star was part of the Nigerian Golden Eaglets squad that won the 1993 edition of the tournament in Japan. Here, in India, for the draw of the country’s first foray in hosting a FIFA event, the Nigerian said: “The under-17 World Cup is a big event. Every young player in the world wants to play in a tournament like this and it’s a great opportunity for the Indian youngsters. The whole country, the whole world will be watching these players and it will be a perfect platform to showcase their talent.”

Kanu is of the opinion that the tournament acts as a perfect catapult to kick-start a professional career. “When we played the under-17 World Cup in 1993, it was the biggest tournament for us. It makes it easier for you to make the transition to the next level, to play the Olympics, to represent the senior national side,” he said.

Hoping for the start of a football revolution in India, post the event, Kanu added: “Hosting the World Cup is a big achievement for India and the youngsters in the country will benefit from watching top teams like Brazil, Germany and Spain in their own backyard. It will be huge for football in the country. And, it will be great if the national team does well and qualify for the knockout phase of the tournament.”

Argentine World Cup player, Esteban Cambiasso, who played in the 1995 under-17 World Cup, had a word of advice for the Indian boys: “You need to love the moment and enjoy every bit of it.”

The former Real Madrid and Inter Milan star was well aware of the pressure the Indian boys might encounter. “As a player you don’t get to play a World Cup often and it’s a great opportunity that these boys are going to play a World Cup at home. I am sure there will be pressure, but they need to forget about it when they get to the field,” he said. “The players and the coach need to approach the tournament with a positive mindset.”