Feeling for Indian football

PTI

“Though many nations play this sport, very few can equal its history in India, which has been playing it for more than a hundred years. We have to break the mental block and put in a system of development that will bring out 11 world-class players from a nation having a population of more than a billion,” says Vikash Dhorasoo to Amitabha Das Sharma.

“I am the proof that Indians can match the best in football.” From where can such assertiveness come in a nation placed 145 in the FIFA world rankings? It needs the calibre and confidence of a World Cup midfielder to bring the reassuring message to a land famished of footballing success. Vikash Dhorasoo, the French World Cup player with Indian lineage, recently visited the land of his ancestors bearing in heart the mission of taking the sport to its pristine glory.

“There is space for everyone in football. You do not have to be big and burly to be successful. There cannot be better examples than Xavi (Hernandes), (Andres) Iniesta or Clarence Seedorf to bring home this fact,” Dhorasoo, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, tried to dispel the long-held notion of physical domination in football in a chat with Sportstar in Kolkata. “Though many nations play this sport, very few can equal its history in India, which has been playing it for more than a hundred years. We have to break the mental block and put in a system of development that will bring out 11 world-class players from a nation having a population of more than a billion,” reasserted Dhorasoo, who became the first player of Indian origin to play the World Cup finals in Germany in 2006.

Dhorasoo, whose career as a creative midfielder lasted 15 years in the top clubs of France and Italy (AC Milan), announced the launch of the France India Football Development (FIFD) initiative. This was in keeping with the promise — “I will come to India with the idea of helping the sport grow in the country” — he made in his first exclusive interview to Sportstar (June 3, 2006) which appeared just when he was about make his World Cup appearance for the Les Bleus.

“I cannot deny that there is lot of India in me though I am a French citizen. I had always wished to do something for the country of my ancestors and that has given birth to this Association,” said Dhorasoo managing to get his English correct with the help of his friend Pierre Walfisz.

“Considering India's long football history we are trying to forge a strategic alliance between India and France in terms of football development,” he added while introducing his partners — Walfisz, Jonathan Sinivassane — and friend Arunava Chaudhuri, who is a journalist and football expert based in Germany.

Dhorasoo painted a different picture of development while cautioning against the purely commercial interests of many clubs in Europe, especially England, that are trying to enter the Indian market. “Not many people know that France has one of the biggest training infrastructure in the world. A great majority of the footballers playing in the English Premier League are products of different academies patronised by its clubs,” Dhorasoo said. “We are not working in terms of making India a market for French clubs, as is the trend started by many English clubs. But we wish to bring out a real cultural exchange programme where both countries will share their excellence,” he added.

Revealing his great interest in art and cinema Dhorasoo said he has already invested in India by funding a short Hindi feature film named ‘Do Duni' through the company, Troupe Le Monde, that he owns with his friend Walfisz . “I am quite attracted by ‘art' films which deal on subjects that do not go with commercial interests. We have already produced another feature film ‘Aur Fir' which has gained good reviews,” Dhorasoo said.

Known for his candidness that got him into trouble with his coaches, Dhorasoo gave an example of this when he assessed his favourite player Diego Maradona. “Maradona gained his special powers with cocaine. You cannot think about him without that,” Dhorasoo summed up his icon in jest. This was the spirit that made him produce the film ‘Substitute' where he recorded his thoughts and feelings after his World Cup stint in 2006. Before signing off, Dhorasoo said football is about possibilities and he is exploring new genres after having quit playing it (in 2008).