Time for grassroots development to take root

While brimming with talent, Christopher Abel, Arsenal FC's grassroots development coach, said the country lacked the infrastructure to develop the talent.

Christopher Abel, Arsenal FC's grassroots development coach, is in Thiruvananthapuram for a short stint with Kovalam FC.   -  Special Arrangement

Christopher Abel, Arsenal FC's grassroots development coach, said India needs to invest on infrastructure to develop the growing talent present in the country.

Abel, who is in India for a coaching stint with Kovalam FC, said: "I read from newspapers about the good show by the Indian Under-16 and Under-20 football teams. It shows that there is enough talent in this country. But you need to make significant investment into facilities and infrastructure. The coaching should be good enough so that children who play will fall in love with the game and reach their potential."

A level 3 qualified football coach, Christopher Abel has been associated with grassroots development programme of Arsenal FC for the last seven years.

"The role of a grassroots development coach is vital. He is the one who starts with the children and makes them fall in love with the game. His role is crucial as the interest of the children depends on him.  A good coach is one who makes football safe, fun and engaging for the children,'' he said.

On his first visit to India and to Kerala, the 30-year-old was impressed with the interest shown by trainees of Kovalam FC Academy. 

While brimming with talent, he felt the country lacked the infrastructure, but felt it was in the right path to progress.

Also an FA coach mentor, Abel advised the coaches not to curb the natural instinct of the children  "The coach should give children a lot of match time, allow them to play with their friends, give them ownership of their own development and make sure that whatever they do, the children are enjoying it and it is challenging for them.

"If a child feels insecure his football will suffer and you will not get players who are creative and willing to take risks. A coach should let the children understand that it is ok even if they fail. You shouldn't put restrictions on their play and should allow their strengths to flourish,'' he added.

"Football is a cerebral game as much as it is physical. Football Intelligence will come with experience. For some children it is by playing a lot of football. Some learn from observation, watching videos on Youtube etc. For a coach it is important to let his ward reach his potential by understanding the game," he added.

Abel said England was reaping the benefits of a good grassroot development programme. The semifinal appearance after 28 years and Harry Kane winning the Golden Boot was testimony to it, he said.

He said Indian fooball could accept good things from the English system and from other countries.

"Blindly following a particular model may not work. But we can accept things which can fit into Indian football. I think you have begun your journey in earnest. The scientific and technical knowledge will come quickly. But again l reiterate  the infrastructure should improve by leaps and bounds here in India,'' he signed off.