Indian football needs focused grassroots development, says Jamshedpur FC coach

Cesar Ferrando says focused investment on grassroots over a sustained period of time is necessary for football to come of age in India.

Cesar Ferrando, the Jamshedpur FC coach, speaks of the need for Indian players to develop technical abilities at the right age.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The tangible impact on the development of football in the country can happen only with focused grassroots development sustained over time, feel the coaches managing two of the biggest sides of the Indian Super League. Cesar Ferrando and Carles Cuadrat, the men who helm sides like Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC, insisted on the necessity of youth development as the league stage of the fifth season of the ISL entered its business end.

The assessment of the Indian football development scenario came ahead of their meeting here in an ISL fixture on Wednesday, which has become inconsequential with Bengaluru FC confirming the top spot in the league standings while Jamshedpur FC saw its playoff hopes evaporate.

The two teams are funded by the steel giants like JSW and Tata Steel and the two Spanish coaches were right in pointing out the academies that these two have started should contribute in nurturing a talent pool that will enrich the sport like the way it happens in Europe.

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Both Ferrando, who at one stage in his career coached a top Spanish side like Atletico Madrid, and Cuadrat, who learnt the sport at the famous FC Barcelona academy La Masia, said that sport in their native country Spain came of age after decades of concerted effort by the clubs.

Ferrando said football will come of age in India if there is a focused investment on “grassroots” over a sustained period of time. “The foreign coaches can come and introduce different playing formations according to the talents available but one can expect a good performance from the Indian players only when they develop technical abilities at the right age,” he said. “It is better that you get good foreign coaches to help in grassroots development. That will bring up good players with the right technical knowledge and skills,” Ferrando added.

Cuadrat, who helped Bengaluru ensure its second successive qualification to the playoff as the league topper, insisted on having a pyramid like structure in the development process. “The ISL as a tournament is played at a good level but there is a huge gap with other divisions. Like our ‘B’ team is winning by 11-0 or 6-0 margins in the local tournament. It does not speak well of the conditions,” Cuadrat said about the disparity in the overall standard of football in the country. “So you need a pyramid like structure with a big talent pool at the base under quality coaches, from where the better players will move to the top league of the country. See the example of the Spanish clubs in La Liga who developed talents over decades to get the national reign on top of the world in 2010,” Cuadrat said.

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Bengaluru, which left a big part of the first team back home to prepare for the playoffs, will be having at least seven ‘B’ team players in the squad against Jamshedpur FC, revealed Cuadrat.